Tuesday, December 15, 2009
There are times in a game when your chosen strategy just isn’t working. Maybe another player is farther along the path you’ve chosen, an unforeseen event has popped-up, etc. In these situations, you need to re-evaluate and change course or you are going to lose. Giving up on a partial plan is painful, but you must do it, or you will lose, which is even more painful.
This applies to real life choices like the Tiger Woods situation as well.
I think the marriage is over in all but name. The wife has been humiliated in front of the world, and I’ve got to believe she is out to cause maximum pain and grab as much of his money as she can get her hands on. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.
So, while it might be painful for Tiger to change course today, it is the best thing for him to do in the long run.
It seems like Tiger really likes to play golf and meet women (plural). So, his best course of action is to file for divorce, pay out the hundreds of millions, and get back to the golf and ladies. He will re-earn the money in a few years, and he won’t have the stress of keeping multiple relationships secret.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
When you design games, you need to understand human nature. The core of which is risk/reward. Which is to say, how much risk is someone willing to take for a given level of reward. Risk/reward is the core of games, and life.
Every time a player makes a purchasing decision, expends a resource, or commits forces to a battle, it is an exercise in risk/reward. The player is weighing the risks in expending resource points, action points, movement points, etc. against the reward of moving closer to winning.
Which brings me to rich guys and extramarital affairs - another example of risk/reward.
The reward is kinda obvious, you get to have sex with many beautiful women. The reward is just as obvious. Your life gets ripped apart.
Fact, guys like to have sex with beautiful women. Notice that women is a plural word, as opposed to woman, which is a singular word.
Here’s the thing. If you’re a rich, good looking, famous guy who travels the world meeting women, you gotta realize that must stop when the ring slides on your finger. Think of it like Sauron’s ring, except you don’t get a volcano escape clause.
It don’t come off.
So here’s the advice. If you’re a rich, good looking, famous guy who travels the world meeting women… Do. Not. Get. Married.
Here’s the second piece of advice. If you’ve just gotta, gotta, gotta, marry a woman (singular), date her for a couple years. During that time, do not sleep with any other women. After two or three years, see if you still gotta, gotta, gotta marry her. If you do, great! But, if in those couple years, you’re still having fun on the side, then maybe marriage isn’t for you.
As for Tiger. Lots of bad stuff is being said about him, but there are some bright spots. Here’s a guy who’s married, earns millions of dollars each year playing golf, has 9(!) mistresses spread around the planet, and kept it secret for years. Talk about organized! If the US government were half as profitable and covert, it would be the envy of every other country on the planet.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Annabelle is the newest addition to the DVG household!
She is a 9 week old Beagle puppy. She might have a bit of Basset also based on those ears!
Kira took this photo. No Photoshop involved. Annabelle really is this cute. :)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I saw the news story about the White House gatecrashers. Before long, I started thinking about national security, so I called a guy I know at the White House. I explained my concerns and asked to access past security footage of the President.
He replied that it is classified and not available to the public.
I reminded him that I’m a game designer.
An hour later, a black SUV rolled up to our front door. Two stern-faced guys in the black suits and sunglasses handed over an external hard disk. One hulk muttered. “You got 24 hours,” while the other checked his watch.
So, I finished Frontline, sent the game files to the printer, then plugged in the hard drive to have a look.
I found a couple interesting images. I think I managed to bring out the details with my limited photoshop skills. At the 23-hour mark, I called my friend with the news.
Of course, the White House wanted first access, but I cut a deal. Before I handed over the images, I got to post them here first…(click to enlarge)...
Why Holly gets nervous when I have free time. :)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Phantom Leader and Frontline are heading to the Printer!
Thank you WAN CHIU for the most awesomest box art EVER!
We’ll be sending the Phantom files in 24 hours, and the Frontline files about 7 days after that.
If you’d like to pre-order and get your name on the boxes, do it nowwwwwwww!!!
Go to the DVG site for pre-order and name info.
Also, DVG is Twittering! Check-out the exciting minute by minute details that go into the design and production of games!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
We are (finally) wrapping-up design for Frontline and Phantom Leader! The files will go to the printer in a week or two. We’ll take a day or two off, and then on to the next games!
If you are new to DVG, we offer a unique feature in the gaming industry. If you pre-order one of our games through our web site, you get your name printed on all the game boxes. All you have to do is pre-order, and then send us an email saying it’s okay to print your name on the boxes.
If you’d like to pre-order more than one copy, you get a name for each game you pre-order.
Here’s the back cover of the Phantom Leader box to show you how it looks…
Here’s our web site…
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Dan's prediction: Ten, twenty years from now when we think back on this period in our nation's history, this will be the photo we remember.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
They’re not done yet.
Months ago, both games were good. All modesty aside, I would even say they were great. But, they weren’t perfect, which is our design standard.
Both Frontline and Phantom are hugely important games for DVG. We hope that Frontline will be the cornerstone of a whole series of WWII tactical card games, and we hope Phantom will relaunch the Air Leader series that has lain stagnate for 15 years.
This all brings up one of the biggest bonuses to producing our own games. When we designed for other companies, there were always deadline clauses built-in to the contracts. Those game designs had to be turned-in on time or bad legal things could happen. As our lawyer has told us many times, “Contracts are signed on sunny days, but they’re only pulled out of the file cabinet on rainy days.”
The bad news is, they’re close to done, but they’re not done yet.
The really good news is, when they’re done, they will be wonders to behold.
Now, back to my game polishing…
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Here’s how it works…
If you tax a lot of people, they get upset and vote you out of office.
If you tax very few people, you don’t get enough revenue to make it worthwhile.
The sweet spot seems to be about 20% of the people
Tax 20% of the people and you rake in the bucks, but you don’t upset the masses.
Tax on smoking
Tax on alcohol
Tax on SUVs
Proposed tax on sodas
Proposed tax on people without health insurance
Am I right? Let’s test the theory. Look through the above list. If I’m right, only 1, maybe 2, of the taxes will apply to you.
How does all this relate to game designs?
Nothing direct, but as a game designer, I need to be able to quickly spot trends or DVG would need to spend even more time testing games. I mention this taxing trend because I think it is something we should all be aware of.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Step 2: Gain notoriety
Step 3: Issue a “heartfelt” public apology
Step 4: Gain more notoriety
Step 5: Issue a “private” apology and notify the media
Step 6: Gain even more notoriety
Step 7: Play down the event as being no big deal, on national TV
Step 8+: Milk it, milk it, milk it…
Thursday, August 27, 2009
We’ll be updating the DVG site with new cards and rules in a day or two.
Once the press is done, we’ll launch Field Commander Napoleon for pre-orders.
Monday, August 3, 2009
On that first night, one US pilot was shot down, Lieutenant Commander Michael “Scott” Speicher. He was flying an FA-18 Hornet. Because of the association with the game, his shoot down stuck in my brain all these years. It was unknown if he was captured or killed. Searchers found the Hornet’s wreckage, but no parachute or body. His fate remained unknown all these years.
A local Iraqi led US troops to a grave containing skeletal remains. By using dental records, they were able confirm they were the remains of Lieutenant Commander Speicher.
After all these years, Scott is finally coming home.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It came out of the mailbox like a hellish kraken from the depths. As soon as I saw it, I knew we were doomed. For the wife can do math too.
As it entered the house, its battle cry rocked the walls. “TV! – PHONE! – INTERNET! – BUNDLE!”
The Beast had found our weakness. Unlike Smaug’s moth-eaten chainmail, the gap in our armor is over the wallet.
As feared, the wife did the math, and rose up in all her fierce glory. The static could not stand against her when armed with a bundle that combined TV, Phone, and Internet into a single monthly charge that was less than what we were paying for just Phone and a (lower-speed) Internet. She wielded her dollar-tipped spear and jammed it straight into the static’s guts. Conan could have done no finer job of slaying. The static died between one heart beat and the next. All it has to do now is topple to the ground.
Which it will do on Thursday between 1pm and 4pm when the cable guy arrives.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As you might know, I was a huge fan of the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show. It was cancelled recently.
I’m also designing Frontline, a WWII infantry combat card game.
Let’s start with Frontline. The game really gets you down in the mud with the guys. Each card is one soldier. This is pretty unique for wargames. Most of the time, a card or counter is a 100, or a 1000, or 10,000 guys. So, I figured it would be cool to personalized each card with a guy’s name and a sentence or two of flavor text to bring out his personality. I wanted to give the game a Band of Brothers feel where these aren’t just nameless guys with guns, these are your men that you live with and command in battle.
Everything was going great. I had created about 50 of the 70 soldier cards, and I had been posting samples on various websites for months. Then someone posted that he hated the cheesy flavor text quotes. Yes, they used the word cheesy. Then another person said the same thing, and another, and another… You get the idea.
I had a choice. I could stick to my guns and leave the flavor text in, because it was an important part of my overall vision, or I could rip it out to satisfy the game’s future players.
Normally, it would have been a tough decision, but I had been giving some thought to the Sarah Connor show. I was trying to figure out why it failed. Notice, I don’t say why was it cancelled. I know why it was cancelled. It was cancelled because it failed. So why did it fail and what did it fail at?
It failed to connect with a wide audience, which resulted in it having very poor ratings, which got it cancelled. Now, just to be clear, I loved the show. But, most of my friends are sci-fi and Terminator fans, and NONE of them watched the show. NONE?! Yep. None.
One guy watched a couple episodes, but didn’t like it.
Why did it fail?
I think it failed because it didn’t give the audience the story it wanted to see. Anything connected with Terminator must focus on well, Terminators.
The show had an awesome Terminator with Summer Glau’s character, Cameron. But she didn’t do much. When she was on screen doing something, it was great. One episode focused on her and a guy in a library. Great episode. One of my favorites. I wonder what the show’s creator’s were thinking? You’ve got Summer Glau. You’ve got sexy outfits for her to wear. You’ve got guns. Why not turn her loose and start killing stuff?
Another great character was Derek Reese. Derek was a well-written character and a great performance was turned in by Brian Austin Green. The guy had an intensity to get things done and not let laws or morality get in the way. He had a war to stop and if a few people died along the way, no problem.
As you can guess, I loved the scenes with Cameron and Derek.
Two more great characters: FBI Agent Ellis and T1000 in disguise Catherine Weaver. Agent Ellis’ character traced a wonderful arc from everyday non-believing guy to being on the inside and shaping the future. His religious angle on life was very cool. To see him imparting Old Testament morality to John Henry (a reborn Terminator) was awesome.
As you can guess, I loved the scenes with Ellis, Weaver, and John Henry.
There you have it. A great show with 5 great characters. Most shows don’t even have 1 great character, and this one had 5!
The 2 stars of the show John and Sarah Connor.
I think Thomas Dekker (John) and Lena Headey (Sarah) did great in their roles. But the characters didn’t do anything. They did a lot of research. They did some emoting. But they didn’t do much doing. They had a war to stop, access to guns, lots of money, a big black pick-up truck, a Terminator, a hardened warrior from the future, and what did they do with all those resources? Not much. In fact, less than much.
Sarah’s biggest concern seemed to be keeping an eye on Cameron and Derek to make sure they “didn’t do something.” Which is strange, because everyone on this side of the TV screen was watching them HOPING they’d do something.
John, on the other hand, was going through teen angst and trying to make his girlfriend happy. Not bad character goals if you’re the star of a teen drama series, but when you’re JOHN CONNOR FUTURE DUDE WHO SAVES HUMANITY FROM THE MACHINES, maybe other life goals should take priority?
So, the lesson I took away from all this is, give your audience what they want.
Oh, and the Frontline flavor text? Yeah, those are sooo gone.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
He paused to ask. “What’s the summer schedule?”
“We all just wake up, and go to bed whenever. I went to bed at 5 in the morning and woke up at noon. Holly went to bed at 10 at night and woke up 4 in the morning. Kevin stayed up until 2 in the afternoon and is asleep. Kira just woke up a couple hours ago.”
“That’s not a schedule! That’s chaos!”
I thought about it. “Yeah, you might be right. The local grocery store is only closed from 1 in the morning until 6 in the morning, yet it’s amazing how often that’s inconvenient.”
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We have received extremely positive feedback and the pre-orders for both games have jumped!
Next week, we’ll upload 2 more. Frontline will include a look at vehicles, and Phantom will cover a US Navy strike mission.
Monday, June 29, 2009
For me, these two games cover some interesting ground in gaming that has only been rarely touched upon…
FRONTLINE (1 to 4 players) – A WWII tactical infantry combat game. Tactical, means small in size. In this case each card is one soldier. Here’s what makes the game unique. There are a lot of WWII land combat board games. Most however, look at the battles on a much larger scale. In those games, each piece represents hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of soldiers. Rarely do games get down to the individual soldier level.
Another unique aspect is I’ve drawn on my CCG design experience to make each soldier card an individual with personality worked into the cards through game stats and flavor text. For example, your riflemen are not all the same. They have different skills, and you can get a feel for their story and personality from the flavor text. This gives the game a strong Band of Brothers feel.
We have also refined the design to be quick playing and action-packed. Most tactical games are slow moving, with lots of complicated rules. Just the opposite of what you’d expect from such a game, but there it is. Frontline can be played in under an hour. For tabletop gaming of a tactical situation, this is huge!
Finally, the art is amazing! Wan has done a great job of capturing the style and period of WWII.
Phantom is also designed to let you get to know your pilots. Each pilot has unique skills and handles the stress of combat differently. As you fly missions they build-up experience, which will improve their skills. This puts you in a position to make some tough choices. Do you keep flying your good guys, until they’re too shaken to fly? Or, do you give your new guys a chance, rest the good guys, but have a harder time completing missions?
Phantom also takes into account the political supervision of the war. During the war, the military leaders had their planning dictated by political issues back home in the US. They were not free to attack whichever targets made the most military sense if it would hurt the political situation. This made their missions tougher because enemy defenses that could have been destroyed were left intact. High value targets were ignored, while low value targets were attacked. Frustrating? Yes! But, this was part of the war, so it is part of the game. As a side note, some of the young officers who endured this in Vietnam later went on to be some of the US’s greatest commanders during Desert Storm in 1991.
Okay, on to the pre-ordering pitch...
Pre-order now! I want to get these games printed and share them with the world, but the only way to do it is to get about 60-70 more pre-orders for each game. This is a small number of pre-orders, and these are some of the best games to come out of our company.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
If you have any interest in air combat or ground combat games, please take a look. Both games can be pre-ordered now. By pre-ordering, you get a 20% discount, and we have a special promotion where you get your name printed on all the boxes.
Phantom is a solitaire game and Frontline is for 1 to 4 players. Both can be played in an hour.
Anyway, I bring this up because, as I remember it, the first line of the book goes something like, “The sky was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.”
Well, it’s been 11 days since our TV took on that dead channel look. I must admit, I miss it. I didn’t think I would, but I do. I was never a big TV person, but I’d watch for a few minutes here and there, just to break up the day.
Hey Mr. Gibson, if you’re out there, thanks for an epic creation!
Monday, June 15, 2009
The first day was the hardest. TV was a handy companion. Bored? Turn it on, surf, see nothing of interest, forget you’re bored, turn it off, and wander away.
The kids took it a lot better than I thought. I call them Generation-S (for Stimulation). If a kid isn’t doing at least 2 things at once, they’re bored. In most case at least one of those things must be electronic. When *I* was a kid we were lucky to have even one thing to do. Of course, that’s when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But still.
In place of TV, they’ve renewed their interest in gymnastics and have even started learning Spanish. They google Spanish words several times a day and can even hear the pronunciation. The Spanish thing might be because the only channels we get are in Spanish, but I figure what the heck? Learning is learning. New words of the day…
Pero = Dog
Que = What?
Papa = Potato
Saturday, June 6, 2009
In about a week, TV as we know it will end. By we, I mean our household. We have never had cable, and have made due with 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. True, there are a few UHF channels (I'm not even sure they’re still called “UHF”), but they are usually shows in other languages. The only channels of interest there are some Spanish shows. It seems like just about any show in Spanish is fair game for busty women in low cut tops, be it the News, talk shows, game shows, etc. So, while I don’t speak the language, I certainly enjoy watching the Spanish Weather Reports.
Anyway, our family is trying an experiment. When TV changes to digital we’re stepping off and waving good-bye. We’ll make due with NetFlix, online streaming formats of shows, and Xbox Live. We have looked at the options of getting a new TV or cable, and neither one is attractive. I’ve always been a fan of interactive entertainment such as socializing, games, etc. Having to pay money to get something I don’t want seems a bit odd.
To be honest, my interest in TV is very small anyway. I loved the Sarah Conner Terminator show, now cancelled, and I watch a couple Minnesota Vikings football games each year. Oh well, I’ll see you online Vikings.
Who knows, maybe in a couple weeks, we’ll be clawing our way toward a new TV or cable?
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
My son Kevin just had his world opened up by going to the E3 video game convention here in Los Angeles. For those of you who have never been to E3, it is a wonder to behold. There are tens of thousands of people, millions of dollars in booths and equipment, and stadium-sized convention rooms, all devoted to video games.
It’s a wonder to behold.
For Kevin, it was earth shattering. He knew that people work at companies and make games, but to see the bigness of it all. In one place. At one time, changed his world. It was a very cool thing for Holly and I to be able to show him.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It has been tough.
It has been grueling.
Many friends, and a few enemies, were made along the way.
But today, I am proud to announce, the last tub of chopped ham HAS BEEN EATEN!
When I recall that fateful day 2 weeks ago, I shudder. Shudder, I tell you! There it lay, a 2 foot tube of chopped ham. 10 pounds of meat for 10 dollars! How could I go wrong? But wrong it was. Like so many before me, I flew too close to the budgetary sun only to find my wings were made of inferior meat byproducts.
On that first night, I tried frying it plain...
frying it with garlic...
and with pepper...
I tried baking it...
As the days passed and its great pink mass continued to dominate our refrigerator, I even tried blendering it into paste and sneaking it into spaghetti sauce. All to no avail. It mocked me at every turn and with every gelatinous bite.
Here's a bit of wisdom for future generations... When all is said and done, you can flavor a rubbery piece of meat with mystery chunks however you like, and you still end up biting into rubbery meat with mystery chunks.
I would like to claim this accomplishment as my own, but I was greatly aided by two turns of good fortune. Good fortune for me at least. Not so good for the innocents who's lives were forever tainted.
First, our dog has an allergy. Twice a day I was able to hide his pills in chunks of this hellish pink flesh. I hope he can forgive me.
The second bit of luck was being able to smuggle several pounds of it into my in-laws refrigerator when they weren't looking. I left their house with a happy wave, saying "I left you a surprise!" That is the level of despair these unearthly slaughterhouse sweepings brought me to. What they ever did with it, I do not know. They stopped returning my phone calls within 24 hours of my delivery.
Being on the outside, you might wonder why I didn't just throw it away? I might have at the start, but as the days passed it became a test of wills, me vs. the jiggly meat.
I would not give in.
I could not!
In the end how could I hold my head up high, knowing I had been beaten by that wiggly mass?
While some might read this as a heroic tale of the struggle of one man against his gelatinous foe, please, read this as a cautionary tale of how all the good and noble things in life can be taken away, one quivering hunk at a time.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Over Memorial Day weekend, Holly and I were at the GameX convention here in Los Angeles. I was honored to be the convention’s Guest of Honor, and we had a great time. I was also fortunate enough to participate in a podcast with Eric Burgess of Boardgame Babylon. Here’s the link to his post on boardgamegeek. LINK From that link you can either stream the interview, or download it. Here is a link to his site LINK
Here are a couple photos of our booth and the program cover…
We are proud to be represented by Jesse Cheng at the Consimworld game convention in Arizona this weekend. Jesse is in charge of our Demo Leader program and has also been representing DVG at conventions for the past year. If you’d like to be a Demo Team Leader, please email me dan (at) dvg (dot) com, and I’ll put you in contact with Jesse.
Here’s a photo of Jesse’s booth…
Along with running the booth, Jesse is also running demos of our games. Thank you Jesse!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
We’ve had a great response from gamers, distributors, and retail stores. It is because of you that we’re in the happy position of needing to order reprints for Field Commander Rommel, Down In Flames, and Field Commander Alexander this week! And a quick check of the inventory shows a Modern Naval Battles reprint isn’t far off.
Thank you also to the many people who have posted kind comments on the different gaming sites like consimworld and boardgamegeek. They are much appreciated and really help to spread the word.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Last night a car hit our family cat. His name was Timothy and he meant the world to my daughter Kira.
Timothy’s story begins with two rabbits last July. At the time, Holly was working in an office and one of her co-workers had accepted a one-year contract working in Kuwait. The only problem was, she didn’t have anyone to take care of her rabbits. Holly volunteered because she saw a friend in need. None of us knew anything about caring for rabbits, but we figured it was better for us to try than to have them put to sleep.
We soon discovered that rabbits need hay as part of their diet. Holly called around and found a local feed and grain store. They told us Timothy Hay is the best kind, so we bought a bundle. The store also had a cage with several cats and a ‘free to good home’ sign.
Kira had wanted a cat for months, but it was just never the right time. On that day, she convinced the store clerk to let her take a tiny black kitten out to the car to show me. The cat was only several weeks old and the size of my hand. As soon as I held him his whole body rumbled with purrs. We had a new cat. It seemed obvious to name him Timothy.
We kept him inside for months until he grew. Even after we let him go outside, we watched to make sure he knew how to find his way home. As time passed, we gave him several nick-names “Tim”, “Timmers”, and “T-Cat”.
Eventually, he became a full-grown cat and came and went as cats do. He never lost his playfulness. Given half a chance, he’d always attack a passing ankle. He also loved playing with rubber bands. Most of all, he loved printers. Every time we printed a page on the laser printer or inkjet printer, he’d leap on the table, stare intently as the printer made noises, and then try to shred the paper as it emerged. Many pages had to be printed more than once. We would joke that Hewlett-Packard needed to develop a cat guard for its printers.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
More importantly, we have finalized an agreement with Decision Games to regain the rights to two of my favorite games series: Air Leader and Down In Flames Jets.
The Air Leader series are solitaire board games that place the player in command of a squadron of fighter planes in a strategic campaign. The player gets to make both tactical and strategic decisions. The series started way back in 1991 with the release of Hornet Leader. Since then, we have released several Vassal/PDF games in the series, but now we can offer the newest game, Phantom Leader, for pre-order and have it printed!
Down In Flames Jets is the modern day version of our Down In Flames WWII card game series. The jets game was designed, but never released. The DIF games put the player in the cockpit to make extremely tactical decisions. DIF-Jets is going to make an excellent addition to the series. It has all the fun of the WWII games, plus missiles! If you ever wanted to play an air combat game but were put off by the complex rules, DIF is the game for you. You can be up and flying in 15 minutes and most dogfights take only 15 minutes to resolve.
Hmm... a weird thing. The first time I tried to post a comment, it asked me to verify some letters - but didn't display any letters. So I typed in some random letters.It gave a failure message.I tried submitting the comment a second time, and it displayed the verification letters. I typed them in, and it worked fine.
I’m off to put together some airplane cards and continue the Napoleon research…
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Cameron is a machine.
Machines can’t have emotions.
Love is an emotion.
Therefore, Cameron can’t love John.
Simple enough. Cameron can’t love John.
There’s a concept called the “Turing Test”.
Basically, it says, if you talk with a machine for a prolonged period of time, and cannot tell whether you are talking to a human or a machine, the machine is considered intelligent. Now, that takes the hugely complex world of artificial intelligence (AI) and reduces it to one sentence, so a lot is lost along the way. But you get the idea.
Cameron has been programmed with vast amounts of information on humans, human emotions, human interaction, human psychology and physiology. True, she doesn’t “feel” any of these things, but from an outward observer she can mimic being a human very well.
Cameron says all the things a person in love says, does all the things, and reacts in the right ways, including internal conflicts leading to a twitchy hand. In short, there is no way to tell she is not in love. Is she considered to be in love?
Thursday, March 5, 2009
For those who don’t know, I’m a huge Terminator fan. Yeah, I know T2 had a mega budget and amazing stunts, but I prefer the original. Watch it again sometime. The script is amazing. Virtually every line of dialog is crafted to convey some vital bit of information about the world or characters. When I design a game, I strive for this same level of excellence. Nothing is wasted. I’m also a big fan of the TV show. Josh Friedman has done a great job of making an episodic story out of one-off movie storylines. Of course, having Summer Glau looking beautiful as she walks around blasting stuff doesn’t hurt either.
Nothing is wasted.
I had a chance to meet up with John Wick at a recent Los Angeles game convention. John and I worked together at AEG on the 7th Sea CCG about 10 years ago. John is a gifted storyteller. Had he been born a few hundred years ago, he’d have been the king’s bard, telling tales of heroic battles, tragic romances, and vengeance carried out most cunning.
So you might be wondering if there’s a point to all this. I’ve wanted to be a game designer for decades, and now it looks like it’s coming together as a way of making a living. I view games as a means of telling a story where the players get to control the tale.
Fortunate. Nothing is wasted. Telling Tales.
Friday, February 27, 2009
For those of you unfamiliar with the pre-order process, it works like this. I get the major portion of a design worked out and tested, along with some initial artwork, and place the game on the DVG site for pre-order. People then get to pre-order the game at a reduced price. As a game gathers pre-orders, the final bits of game development and artwork are finalized. When enough pre-orders are collected to pay the printing bill, pre-order credit cards get charged, and the game is sent to the printer.
I’ll soon be able to post new cards, a rulebook outline, and sample of play on the web site. Hopefully, this will generate player interest, and the final batch of pre-orders.
Wan also sent me a first look at the Napoleon cover, and it is looking great! I sent him some Napoleonic paintings and quotes to add to the sides of the box. We’ll hopefully have something to place on the site in a week or two.
I finished reading the Napoleon book. Talk about a busy guy! From the time he took command, rarely a year went by that he wasn’t at war with somebody.
On the topic of horse trivia, the name of Napoleon’s horse at the Battle of Waterloo was “Marengo.”
I now have 6 Napoleonic campaign maps outlined. The next step is to create playtest versions of the maps. To do this, I’ll start by dividing them into historical territories, placing important cities and battle sites, and creating the Set-Up list of forces and rules. Soon after that comes the victory conditions and the rules specific to each campaign. Once the entire campaign is in place, we work on the playtesting and balancing. This is the trickiest and most time consuming step of the process. This is the part where Holly really shines. By the time a game goes the printer, she has played it at least 100 times. The hardest part is keeping track of “today’s rules”. As she finds problems, rules, numbers, and charts change day by day.
Each campaign must be difficult to win, but not impossible. It must also present the player with different choices. Players are very smart and quickly figure out the best way to win a campaign. This means there must be changing conditions in the campaign to prevent a “best” strategy. The hard part is to install changing conditions that do not make the campaign more or less difficult to win. It is also important that any events outside the player’s control do not affect the chance of him winning. It’s no fun to play for an hour, roll a die, and realize that even though you had control over the die, you just lost. Therefore, random events must offer variety in affect while being equal in power. Very tricky to do.
Once a map has solidified, the final artwork is created.
I’m also starting to get the next wave of work done on our Frontline game. That is another game available for pre-order.
At any given time we have about 5 games that we’re working on. At this time, there are a couple more games in the works, but we need to make a bit more progress before talking about them!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
After 2 visits to new bookstores and 2 visits to used bookstores, I turned to the friendly neighborhood library. I found several books that gave a nicely detailed account of Napoleon’s exploits, including the location of battles, challenges he faced, and the types of troops he fought against. The library also had a special room to make photocopies, which was very handy since some of the books could not be checked-out.
I have dived into the books, taking notes, marking-up maps in Photoshop, and getting a feel for his campaigns.
In a side story, Napoleon was invited to the estate of a French noble for a rabbit hunt. The noble wanted to make sure Napoleon bagged as many rabbits as possible, so he had the estate stocked with domesticated rabbits several weeks before the hunt. This was all kept under the tightest of security. After all, if Napoleon found out he was hunting tame rabbits, the noble might well lose his head to pay for Napoleon’s embarrassment.
So, the big day arrives, and Napoleon pulls up in his carriage for the grand hunt. The carriage stops on the road running next to the forest, and the noble and servants fall breathless in anticipation. Napoleon’s servants open the door and Napoleon emerges. There is much bowing and pleasantry. As they prepare for the hunt, they hear a rustling sound coming from the forest. Within seconds hundreds of rabbits erupt from the trees and run straight for Napoleon. In panic, he retreats to his carriage, slams the door, and orders the driver to leave with all haste. As the carriage pulls away, Napoleon can be seen tossing rabbits out the carriage windows.
It turns out the domesticated rabbits didn’t know how to survive on their own and had to be fed daily to keep them alive. Each day, a carriage (looking much like Napoleon’s) full of rabbit food was dispatched to feed them.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Which reminds me, we just received the printer samples for Alexander and they look fabulous! People have been saying how nice our newly released Down In Flames card game looks, and Alexander lives up to this new high level of expectation. The maps are mounted and linen covered. The counters are thick and look amazing. The box is thick and weighty. You could easily smack down a few zombies with one of these game boxes. People are going to be very happy with Alexander!
Anyway, enough about zombies, let’s talk Napoleonics…
Things I knew about Napoleon as of a couple weeks ago: He was a French leader from a couple hundred years ago. He fought wars across Europe and Russia. Unlike Alexander, I wasn’t sure if Napoleon had a favorite horse, or what its name was.
The cores of our Field Commander (FC) games are the game maps. Rommel had 3 maps, Alexander has 4 maps, and Napoleon will probably have 5. All the game counters are placed on the maps and you move them around as you try and capture enemy territories and accomplish your victory condition.
So I started looking for strategic level maps of Napoleon’s campaigns. Nothing complicated. I’m just trying to see where his forces started, where the big battles took place, and where he was trying to capture to declare victory. Finding such maps has proven to be very difficult. I’m still looking. I’ve looked online and at the bookstore. Next stop will be the library.
My research has taken some interesting turns however. I received a phone call early one morning from Nick, someone I’d never met before. The first words he said were “Hey Dan! Great to talk with you. I see you’re doing a game on Napoleon. I’ve been researching him for years…” Nick and I then talked for an hour on Napoleon, which was great, because I was starting at zero. Everything he had to say was news to me.
Last week we had an exhibitor’s booth at a game convention by Los Angeles International Airport. I got to talk with the gentleman in the next booth. It turns out he is a big Napoleon fan. He’s very much into the battles and tactics, which was something Nick and I never talked about. After a few minutes, I dashed off, grabbed a notepad and started writing. I now have a notepad full of notes on infantry, cavalry, guards, leaders, cannons, tactics, and forts.
The lesson I learned here is to talk with people. You never know what people know.
I also traded a few games with the gentleman at the convention. He now has a shiny new copy of Rommel and I have a cool new naval miniatures game.
In researching Napoleon, I have so far divided his career into 5 maps:
#1 - Italy 1796, 1800
#2 - Egypt 1798
#3 - Central Europe 1805, 1806-1807, 1809
#4 - Russia 1812
#5 - Central Europe 1813, France and Belgium 1814, 1815
This may or may not change as the design advances, but it seems to work for now to cover all his campaigns and keep them on 5 maps.
I have also talked with Wan Chui and Clara Cheang, the amazing artists who created the art for Alexander. They have agreed to create the artwork for Napoleon. I’m sure it will be stunning! A funny story… The first time Wan came by to talk about an art project, our dog Max, a large German Shepard, started batting a rock around the living room floor with his front paws. The rock is the size of a softball and weighs a couple pounds. As Wan looked at Max playing with his rock, I explained that it was Max’s favorite toy and he’d been playing with it for years. Wan shook his head and said, “Wow, you guys are cheap!”
As we speak, Wan and Clara are working on the Napoleon box cover.
Holly found a great book on Napoleon and has been filling me in on details of his early life. One fact I liked was from an early age Napoleon started creating detailed plans to overthrow the French government. Now, you would think that he would have kept such plans written in a secret code, and then buried them under a rock deep in the forest. Not Napoleon. He carried the plans around in 29 notebooks.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Here’s a little background on the research that goes into a game…
Military history is a huge subject. I know some stuff about it, but very little when compared to how much there is to know. I’ll give you a couple examples. When I started working on the Field Commander Rommel design I knew very little about Rommel. I knew: He was a WWII German general. He was respected by both Axis and Allied leaders. He was known for his legendary command of German forces in Africa. He came up with dashing battle plans. And that’s about all I knew.
I then dove into researching him online, at the library, and the local bookstores. I started by learning the big facts, like the campaigns he lead outside of Africa, the problems he had getting enough supplies for his troops, and the enormous challenge he faced by the unending stream of Allied men and material. He was always outnumbered and outgunned, and had to rely on strategy rather than brute force to accomplish his objectives. At the end of 6 months of research and game design, I had a much deeper understanding of the man.
The same cycle applies to our recently completed Field Commander Alexander. At the start I knew he was from Macedon and conquered a lot of territory. Not much to start with.
The research followed the same course of online, library, and bookstores. Holly and I even watched several Alexander documentaries. As the data came together I learned of his mother, Olympias, who stopped at nothing to see her son on the throne. I learned of his father Philip II who was assassinated, thus clearing the way for Alexander to rule Macedon. There is more than one theory by the way that links Olympias to Philip’s untimely demise.
One of the things that most impressed me was Alexander’s sense of destiny. It seemed like he never doubted that he would do great things, and that others would follow him. Of all his conquests, his siege of the island of Tyre most impressed me. But, before we talk about Tyre, let’s look at how Alexander got started…
A while before Alexander’s time, the Persians attacked Greece and Alexander felt it was up to him to give some payback. But before he could deal with the Persians, he had some trouble at home to deal with. Alexander had no sooner taken the throne when the other Greek city-states start marching troops in his direction. He quickly defeated their armies with clever tactics and solidified his power base in Greece. He then lead his army out of Greece and into Asia to attack the PERSIAN EMPIRE.
Now, you gotta remember, Macedon was an okay sized country, but the Persian Empire was, well, an Empire. It was huge. They had millions of troops, dozens of mighty fortresses, and more gold than you can imagine. On the other hand, Alexander had 40,000 men, a pointy spear, and his trusty horse, Bucephalus. To most people this would have been a problem and they would have stayed at home. Not Alexander. He attacked the Persians and defeated them in several battles. When their king Darius III offered him riches to stop and go home, he attacked all the harder. When the dust settled, Alexander was sitting on the throne of the Persian Empire.
So anyway, getting back to Tyre. As if the millions of troops weren’t enough, the Persians also had a huge navy. Macedon had a small navy. This was a problem because Alexander needed access to the seas for his supply needs, fresh troops, and communications to make sure no one back home got too uppity.
So Alexander came up with a plan. Instead of sending his navy out to meet the Persian fleet in battle, and get quickly destroyed, he started capturing the Persian ports. He knew their navy needed its ports and would have to be pulled back as each port was captured. His plan worked great. He’d capture a port, and the Persians pulled back their navy. Everything was going fine, until he got to Tyre.
Tyre was an island about a half mile off the coast. A well fortified island with high walls and lots of siege engines. With two harbors and a big fleet of warships. Nobody messed with Tyre. You can’t conquer an island with an army. The Tyrians knew it. The Persians knew it. Pretty much everyone except Alexander knew it.
Alexander set-up camp in Old Tyre, an old stone city on the coast across from the island of Tyre. Things got off to a bad start when the Tyrians killed the two ambassadors Alexander sent over to talk, and then threw their bodies into the waves for Alexander and his army to see.
Instead of focusing on what he needed, but didn’t have, to crush Tyre, Alexander looked at the resources he had. He had a city made of stone blocks and 40,000 guys sitting around doing nothing. That would quickly change.
He ordered part of his army to start tearing the city apart block by block and dumping the blocks into the sea. As time passed the city of Old Tyre got smaller and a stone walkway, called a Mole started appearing out of the waves, extending block by block toward Tyre. This wasn’t some tiny walkway. The Mole was 300 feet wide. Before long, the Tyrians started to take notice and sent out ships to attack the men building the Mole. Alexander then put the remainder of his army to work lashing ships together to form the floating bases for huge siege towers. He sent these siege ships against the island’s wall to start battering them, and take the pressure off the Mole. With siege ships battering the walls, the Tyre navy had to divide its efforts and became far less effective.
After a few months of block dropping and wall pounding, the walls were breached, and Tyre was invaded. Things get kinda bloody at that point. Alexander had a long memory and he hadn’t forgotten the two slain ambassadors. Alexander then paraded his army across the Mole in triumph.
Cool end note to the island of Tyre. It’s not an island anymore. So much silt and debris was pushed by the current against Alexander’s Mole that the island is now connected to the coast and is a peninsula.
This brings us to the game we have just started working on, Field Commander Napoleon. We’ll start on that with the next entry!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
A game starts with me putting together an initial design. Holly and I then sit down to play. Rarely does a game survive the first player turn, before huge problems are found. We talk about it and try to figure out how to keep the good while fixing the bad. Holly is great at dissecting a design.
This repeats dozens of times. An important point to mention is that a game’s design is not linear. At many points in the process, the design gets scrapped and a new design is started. I use the term scrapped intentionally, because we don’t just throw out the old design, but we carefully examine it to find the good, which gets transplanted into the new design.
Game designs evolve both evolutionarily and through random mutation. In many cases you can see how one version leads to the next, but sometimes there is a huge gap between one version and the next.
Anyway, we work on a game until it is “good”. Then we keep working on it until it is “great”. And finally, we keep working until it is “obvious”.
By “obvious,” I mean that when we show the game to a new person they look at the design and say, “Well of course that’s how the game works, it’s obvious that’s the best to have designed it.”
Although it’s completely subjective, it’s obvious when we’re done with a design.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
A couple years ago, Holly had the idea of publishing our own games. Side note: Holly is the one who usually comes up with all the big life changing ideas in our family.
At first I thought she’d finally lost all touch with reality, but then she went on to explain that we had worked on all the steps of game publication while designing games for other companies. At one time or another, not only had we designed the games, but also created the packaging, written the rules, handling marketing, prepped the files for printing, and everything else.
So, we launched the web site and put our first game up for pre-order “Field Commander Rommel”. She was right! Soon enough people started pre-ordering the game and within a few months we had enough pre-orders to pay the printing bill and start production.
We were a game company!
In the past six months we have sent three more games to print. We now have 3 games for sale, and the fourth will be delivered from the printer in early May.
All of our success is built on the faith and support of our pre-ordering customers. Without them, we couldn’t have started our business, and we never forget them. In fact, we’ve started a new thing in the gaming world. Every person who pre-orders one of our games gets to have their name printed on all the games boxes.
So, why start a blog?
A couple reasons. First, some friends, Kevin Carter and Mike Guadagnino suggested it as a cool way to talk back and forth with the world. Second, we have a regular “News” section on our web site, but we need to keep that formal and professional. We thought a blog would be a neat means of informal conversation.
Everyday in the world of game design is an adventure. You never know what new fortune or mishap is waiting with the morning email.
Reminds me of Sgt. Apone's pep talk in the movie Aliens... "All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal's a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!"
A side note of Aliens. When Holly was in the hospital giving birth the nurses asked if we wanted to watch a movie on their mobile TV system. I guess they were thinking of peaceful woodland scenes or something, but she wanted to watch Aliens. It wasn't long before the sounds of gunfire, and chest tearing screams, led the nurses to close our door. They said the other patients were finding the sounds "disturbing".