Game Design

FAQ on a bill (S1629) proposing The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act - by Brandon Huffman Blogs - 31 May 2019 - 7:11am
A bill was introduced in the US Senate dubbed The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act. It is a misguided attempt to regulate loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics out of the video game industry. Here's an overview on how it might affect you.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Horizon: Zero Dawn Design Analysis - by Stanislav Costiuc Blogs - 31 May 2019 - 7:07am
A look at different facets of Horizon: Zero Dawn and what Guerrilla has done to create a wholesome, engaging experience.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: The Outer Wilds Of A Void City - by Simon Carless Blogs - 31 May 2019 - 3:23am
This week's roundup includes a look at the intriguing triple-I (sorry!) titles Outer Wilds & Void Bastards, as well as the role of the city in games, bringing back Bubsy, insane auto-playing Mario Maker levels & more.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

X-Cards w/Alex Roberts

Gnome Stew - 31 May 2019 - 2:00am

The cover art for Star Crossed. A great game and innovative use of a block tower.

As tabletop RPGs continue to spread like butter on hot toast, scores of people from all sorts of backgrounds find themselves gathered around tables to meet equally estranged strangers. This is especially true for gaming leagues, as well as the summer convention circuits, where many players will join together for a single adventure, only to never meet again.

If you’ve played around in convention games you’ve likely heard of the infamous X-Card, an index card with an X drawn on one side. Whenever a player feels uncomfortable with the subject matter, be it something being said or an in-game event, they can then either tap or raise the card to indicate their discomfort. They do not need to indicate why the subject makes them uncomfortable. The GM, as well as the other players, should then find a way to change or skip through the parts that make them uncomfortable.

As a player-safety tool, you’ll find it the most in pick-up games. However, it’s a fantastic mechanism many Gamemasters old and new can import into their own games. As it’s also part of the creative commons, creators are even able to incorporate it in their tabletop games freely.

Such was the case when I picked up my copy of Star Crossed, a two-person romantic tabletop RPG. I was pleasantly surprised to find high quality and glossy X-Card included in the game. While I’ve used one in the past, it was a delight to see a commercial game actually include one in their box. Very recently I was even able to sit down with Alex Roberts, the creator of Star Crossed and the upcoming For The Queen, and talk about her thoughts on X-Cards.

When the doc around x-cards popped up in 2012 there was a lot of buzz around it. How and when did you first hear about it?

Alex: It would have been a while later than that – 2014, maybe? I wasn’t very plugged into the broader RPG scene; I was just playing with my local group.

What were your first thoughts when you heard about it?

Alex: I was pretty dismissive! It was explained to me as a convenient way to avoid talking about serious topics at the table. I thought, hey, shouldn’t we be using our words? Let’s all be grownups about this! Let’s care for each other a little more proactively than that! It’s easy to dismiss something when you don’t do all your research on it (I hadn’t even seen the X Card document at this point) and when you haven’t been in the contexts where it becomes necessary. I hadn’t yet been in a situation where an X Card would really have helped me. I’ve been there since.

One of the main topics around x-cards is around editing content and censorship. Do you feel X-Cards limit creative freedom?

Alex: When we’re playing an RPG, we’re creating something with and for each other. All the players are creators and audience in one. It’s pure folk art; that’s what I love about roleplaying. In that context, you work within the needs and desires of your co-creators. Or you deliberately push their limits and ignore their desires I guess? I don’t know why you would want to do that. But yeah I guess the X Card would make that harder.

You have a new game, For The Queen, that deliberately lists x-cards as a game feature. I think that’s really cool, personally, especially since it’s the first I’ve seen to include it as a headlining element. Could I ask your thoughts on listing it there?

Alex: Star Crossed comes with an X Card as well, but in For The Queen it’s integral to how the game is played. Players draw question cards and then answer them, pass them to the next player, or X them out of the game. It actually helps make each playthrough unique. I was in one game with someone who kept X-ing out every question that implied cruelty or violence from the Queen, and it made for a much softer, gentler story that was no less interesting than some of the more brutal ones that can come out of the same game. I honestly believe that tools that help us articulate our desires and limits help us tell more interesting and unique stories. People are more creative when they can let their guard down, I’ve noticed.

Last question: What is your personal, or perhaps preferred, vision for the future landscape of tabletop gaming? Where do you see it going?

Alex: Honestly, for all the pain and frustration I see and experience from this weird little world, I think we’re headed in a good direction. When I see the discussions we’re finally having around labor, profit, power, care, conflict, colonialism, I feel optimistic. And I think it’s crucial to note that most of these conversations have arisen in spaces where BIPOC’s voices are being uplifted and respected more. So I think we should keep at that.

Was there anything else you wanted to say concerning X-Cards? “I just wanted to have fun. I’m really grateful we had a simple tool that made it easy for me and my friends”

Alex: Can I share a little story? I honestly think it’s more important than anything else I’ve written here.

I was once in a game very shortly after my grandfather passed away. It helped take my mind off of things, I got to connect with friends, and we told a cute and uplifting story together. But during character creation, someone said they were going to be another character’s grandpa. I immediately tapped the X Card and I think everyone was confused, but then another player who knew I was grieving – well you could see the light bulb go off above his head and he suggested an Uncle instead and we moved on!

That first player was completely within the tone and content of the game and offered his character idea with no intention of doing harm. But wow I was not up for talking about a grandfatherly relationship for the next few hours! And I would have explained why but I really didn’t want to do that either. I just wanted to have fun. I’m really grateful we had a simple tool that made it easy for me and my friends to look out for each other.

Thanks for your time, Alex. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts on what I see to be a step towards an overall positive and safe gaming environment.

Alex: Thank you for reaching out!

Despite its positive intent and implications, when talk of X-Cards first popped up in 2012 there was initially a large amount of negative buzz around it. Both players and Gamemasters alike were critical of X-Cards giving players too much power to edit content, even going as far to call using it akin to censorship. Since then, there have been major shifts in the community as a whole. It is long since past the age where tabletop gamers were stereotyped to simply be single, male, and heteronormative hermits that played their games in basements. Now we’re complex, gender- & sexuality-diverse hermits that only sometimes play in basements.

Now we’re complex, gender- & sexuality-diverse hermits that only sometimes play in basements.

As we move forward in the community we not only need to be able to look at current trends, but we need to plan for the future. We need to shape the community of tabletop RPGs and board games alike with positive checks and balances. This is especially true with settings set in older, less hospitable times. Especially since the highly popular high-fantasy is particularly rampant with uncomfortable topics.

X-Cards, in the end, are a powerful tool allowing safer navigation around complex and often upsetting topics even in unkind settings. Despite this, it’s also important to understand that X-Cards do not absolve responsibility from the GM or the players to be respectful of others; it’s simply a means for the players to healthily assert their own levels of comfort. As we continue to grow as a community of players and content creators, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to enable our own checks and balances over the content of the game.

We’re only at the start of a long climb to the top and I’m excited to see where we go.

You can find the official documentation for X-Cards by John Stavropoulos here: [LINK]
You can also find Alex Roberts’ upcoming game, For the Queen, here: [LINK]

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare brings cross-platform play to the series

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 30 May 2019 - 1:21pm

The latest game in Activision†™s long running Call of Duty series is the first to offer cross-platform play. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Games on the Google Play Store now required to disclose loot box odds

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 30 May 2019 - 9:25am

Google Play's dev guidelines now say that apps with loot boxes "must clearly disclose the odds of receiving those items in advance of purchase.† ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Detroit: Become Human, Nintendo Labo among Games for Change Awards finalists

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 30 May 2019 - 8:14am

Games for Change has listed the games up for honors in its 2019 Games for Change Awards and introduced a pair of new awards coming to this year†™s show. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Want to Boost Your Game’s ROI? Tap Into Your Community - by Henry Fong Blogs - 30 May 2019 - 6:27am
Game community management couldn’t be more crucial in today’s online gaming world. With the right tools and methodologies, you will gain an understanding of your players that can engage each segment on a higher level to help boost your game’s ROI.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Misleading with Play Counts - by Michael Heron Blogs - 30 May 2019 - 6:26am
There is often a demand for reviewers to be transparent with how long, or how many times, they have played the game. I don't think that's helpful. This blog post outlines why that is.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Senate Bill Could Mean Game Over For Microtransactions And Loot Boxes - by Steven Chung Blogs - 30 May 2019 - 6:24am
A proposed Senate bill seeks to ban certain in-game microtransactions and loot boxes. But the bill's definition of microtransaction is broad and can include any in-game transaction.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Do Loot Boxes Need to be Regulated - by Josh Bycer Blogs - 30 May 2019 - 6:23am
The recent loot box bill being proposed could mean the end of the system as we know it, but is there a safer alternative that keeps everyone happy?
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Planning A Perfect Pitch: 9 Questions To An Art Producer - by Anastasiia Kladova Blogs - 30 May 2019 - 6:22am
How many times were you unsure how to showcase a creative idea? In this article, Art Producer at Room 8 Studio shares a guide through the world of pain and gain, that helps to get a pitching deck right, impress the publisher, and create an awesome game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gnomecast #67 – Inviting New Players

Gnome Stew - 30 May 2019 - 5:00am

Join Ang, Bob, J.T., and John for a discussion about inviting new players to your table. Will these gnomes’ tips for a warm welcome be enough to keep them out of the stew this week?

Download: Gnomecast #67 – Inviting New Players

Follow Bob at @RobertMEverson on Twitter.

Check out J.T.’s work and social media on his website,

Check out John’s work and social media on his website,

Follow Ang at @orikes13 on Twitter and see pictures of her cats at @orikes13 on Instagram.

Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting, following @gnomestew on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page. Subscribe to the Gnome Stew Twitch channel, check out Gnome Stew Merch, and support Gnome Stew on Patreon!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Words on a Screen: Post Length

RPGNet - 30 May 2019 - 12:00am
Keep it Brief
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Google Play's new dev policies aim to improve child privacy and safety

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 29 May 2019 - 2:36pm

Google Play now requires devs to declare their target audience to host an app on the store, and abide by additional rules if their app is aimed at children. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Setting as a Character

Gnome Stew - 29 May 2019 - 5:00am

There’s a bit of advice that floats around writing workshops, conferences, classes, and such that goes: Your setting should be a character.

It’s good advice but (like most advice) maybe it doesn’t always apply in every situation. Today, I’m going to assume it does apply to your campaign and chat about how to go about making your setting into a character. I’m not talking about a stat sheet or “How many blacksmiths are in town?” or the stats of the leadership/powerful people that are in town, or anything like that.

We’re going to talk about giving your setting some soul, some will of its own, and a good, old-fashioned character arc.

Setting Spirit

 Between the two cities, they shared a soul, a kindred spirit, and a reason to exist and support one another. Share1Tweet1Reddit1Email

In the early 90s, I came across a new friend who became one of the best friends I ever had. I met him through role playing, and he’d recently relocated from Los Angeles to our small city in west Texas. He frequently made the comment, “This city has no soul. There’s something missing here.” A few months go by with me trying to figure out what he meant. Maybe my hometown did, indeed, lack a soul. Maybe that’s what I was used to. I didn’t know.

We finally took a brief trip to the neighboring city (20 miles away), and while trundling around this other town, he suddenly exclaimed, “Ha! Here it is. Here’s the missing half of your hometown.” In a way, he was right. My hometown was largely white collar that ran the businesses in the oil industry of the area. The neighboring town was largely the blue collar workers that performed the industry to keep the area alive and prosperous.

Between the two cities, they shared a soul, a kindred spirit, and a reason to exist and support one another.

In your settings, you need to also give your settings a reason to be. This constitutes the locations spirit creature. You don’t have to write up entire books on the backstory of every location. Just jot down a few simple words or a couple of phrases that will guide you in representing what the location has to offer to the rest of the world (and the PCs as well).

Here are some samples:

  • Border town between friendly nations that supports trade and collects taxes.
  • Outpost guarding against frequent orc raids.
  • Remote school of magic where unpredictable experiments are performed.
  • Sprawling, chaotic metroplex that is the center of the nation’s government.
  • Abandoned temple overlooking an ancient stone quarry.
Setting Goals and Motivations

 What does the setting want and why? Share1Tweet1Reddit1Email

In addition to giving a brief descriptor to your location, I also recommend giving your setting a goal. Any good character is going to have a goal and a reason or motivation to obtain that goal. Honestly, if these two elements are missing from a character, the thing is going to come off as flat, two-dimensional, or be described as a “cardboard cutout.” No one wants that of their character.

The same holds true for a setting. What does the setting want and why?

This goal+motivation combination can be driven by the citizens, the leadership, a guiding spirit, the local religion, an alien sentience, an artificial intelligence, or some combination of those and more. Sometimes, if the setting’s spirit is strong enough, the goal could be as simple as “drill for more oil to support our industry” because that’s pretty much what has always been done. It’s a spiritual inertia, so to speak.

Setting “Character” Arc

There’s a great saying that fits here: Time waits for no man.

In this connotation, I’m interpreting this to mean: If the PCs take a break, the setting keeps moving.

What I mean by this is that just because the party stops adventuring, that doesn’t mean the setting (and other characters within the setting, including the Bad Guys) doesn’t stop changing, flowing, doing their thing, or evolving around the party.

 Time waits for no man. Share1Tweet1Reddit1Email

I’ve heard of an entire party of elves who found a beautiful beach in the middle of adventuring and decided to set up camp in the lush, wonderful area for a decade. Not because they had to, but because they had the years to spend and wanted to. I was talking to the GM about this event, and he said it took him most of a month to re-jigger his campaign world around that passed decade and figure out “how the setting aged and changed over the ten years.”

Most of the breaks your PCs take won’t be a decade in length, but even a “short rest” (about an hour) can have massive consequences if the party is on a tight schedule or the Bad Guys are going to do something at a particular time. Likewise, a “long rest” (about 8 hours) can have even more of an impact on the storyline as the setting continues to move forward around the resting adventurers.

If you can, figure out when certain events are going to happen along the ever-forward-marching timeline, and still have them happen unless the party manages to somehow alter future events by taking out certain antagonists, resources, monsters, or organizations.

By allowing your setting to breathe on its own and change on its own, this will create a more “lived in” feel for the players as they move their characters through your world.


Settings are a hoot to create for some of us out there in the gaming sphere. If they weren’t, then we’d have only a handful of settings to use across the multitude of games that exist today. When creating your next setting or group of locations, put some thought into why they’re around, what they want from the rest of the world, why those wants are important, and plan for future changes and/or events to occur in the setting as time progresses forward.

Just a little forethought in this area will add layers of realism to your world that your players will intuitively dive into.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer leaving Blizzard for Epic Games

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 28 May 2019 - 3:24pm

Nate Nanzer is leaving his position as commissioner of the Overwatch League to work on the competitive side of Epic Games' Fortnite. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Report: Tencent backs away from Arena of Valor after it fails to take off in the West

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 28 May 2019 - 1:15pm

Tencent†™s Arena of Valor missed the mark in the West, so much so that the company is reportedly shifting resources away from the Honour of Kings spinoff. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Version Control with Perforce featuring Brad Hart - by Larry&Brandon GDU Blogs - 28 May 2019 - 7:54am
Brad Hart is the Chief Technology officer for Perforce. Before getting in the tech industry, Brad had a completely different career in Mechanical Engineering in aviation and his itch for working with computers turned from a hobby to him selling his first
Categories: Game Theory & Design

7 Essential Ingredients Horror Games Have to Build Tension - by Daniel Jones Blogs - 28 May 2019 - 7:47am
Horror Games have benefited from somewhat of a renaissance of late. I believe there was a concern among gamers in the industry that they were being left behind by publishers in favour of a more action orientated approach. You only had to look at the lik
Categories: Game Theory & Design


Subscribe to As If Productions aggregator - Game Theory & Design