Episode #28 is live!
The usual three-man crew discusses – debates, even – the ways in which we win games. The first half of the show is dominated by dissecting the pluses and minuses of victory points, whether they’re inherently arbitrary, and if they might even be a sign of lazy design. In the second half our hosts talk specifics, analyzing how victory does (and could) work in ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘At the Gates.’
Although it’s not something I’ve talked much about here on the site, anyone that’s listened to the show in the past should be very familiar with my dislike of victory points.
I don’t find the use of VPs to be inherently evil, as they do come with benefits and I’ve enjoyed many a game that’s included them. However, I find VPs to be so much of an abstraction that anything they’re associated with loses all connection to the “theme.”
Sure, you don’t need a great theming in order to have great gameplay, but without it you’re raising the barrier to entry and making it much harder to tell if you’re on the right path. As such, I try to avoid them whenever possible.
Of course, that’s just my opinion! Check out this episode to see what Dirk and David think.
Posted by Jon Shafer on May 21, 2013
Episode #25 is live!
David Heron, Jon and Dirk noodle over the role of information and obfuscation in game design. Why does ‘Persona 4’ work when the BioWare games do not? And when can hiding info be GOOD for a game?
The role of information, and its cousin abstraction, is something I’ve already written about, and it was great to discuss it with a larger panel. I honestly had some trouble thinking of more modern games that didn’t obfuscate enough, but I think David’s suggestion of the BioWare titles is spot on.
In thinking about this topic especially, it’s really become clear to me that game design is much more about “feel” than many mechanical designers (and those trying to pump up its value by applying a form of scientific method or standardized process to it) like to admit. What the game does and does not give away is a fundamental decision the dev team makes very early on, and it may not even be done consciously.
Yet another feather in the cap of, “There are certainly good and bad ways to design games, but you’d have a harder time arguing that there are good and bad game designs.” It’s almost like baseball – every season is a long grind filled with dramatic ups and downs. Sometimes you’ll have a week where every at bat you hit the ball hard but right at someone, and at other times you’ll flail, break bats and loop game-winning hits over the infield. All you can do is hone your fundamentals and trust that good process will win out over luck eventually. Fortunately, it does.
Posted by Jon Shafer on April 30, 2013
Episode #24 is live!
Trademark specialist and actual lawyer-type Dave Fitzgerald joins the show to discuss legal issues relating to games development. Topics covered include the difference between patents, trademarks and copyrights, what you need to set up a company and common mistakes made by developers.
I really enjoyed this episode, as it provides detailed answers for legal and business questions that I’m sure every indie developer has wondered about. In addition to setting aside a couple hours to chat with us, Dave has also generously offered to field questions. You can reach him at DFitzgerald@WHE-Law.com.
Posted by Jon Shafer on April 23, 2013
Episode #23 is live!
Dirk shares his first ‘Magic’ drafting experience, and why the game and format now has its hooks into him. He and Jon then step back and evaluate the drafting mechanic and ponder whether the reason why it works is BECAUSE of a steep learning curve. They then go on to discuss the recent re-release of ‘Age of Empires 2’ and ‘War of the Roses’ before providing brief updates as to what’s new with ‘At the Gates’ and ‘Tomorrow’.
I was worried Dirk wouldn’t enjoy his Magic drafting expereince, as it’s one of those things you either love it or absolutely hate it. I’m glad that he had fun, because while there’s an incredibly steep learning curve, if you can get up over the top there’s some great gameplay to be found at the peak.
Posted by Jon Shafer on April 19, 2013
Episode #20 is now live!
Jon and Dirk are guest-free this week and provide an update on what they’ve been working on and playing. On the Kickstarter front, ‘At the Gates’ has wrapped up and ‘War Stories’ will soon be doing the same. A recent playtest of ‘Tomorrow’ and Jon’s thoughts on a recent version of the game. They also discuss some of the games played at ‘Abnercon’, including ‘The World Cup Game’, ‘Railroad Tycoon’ and ‘Mare Nostrum’.
Another solo show where Dirk and I chat about what we’ve been up to lately. There was a lot more we wanted to cover but we didn’t want a 2-hour show so we decided to cut things off.
Posted by Jon Shafer on March 28, 2013
Episode #19 is live!
With the sad passing of Allan Calhamer, Dirk and Jon felt it appropriate to honor his memory and the legacy left behind by his finest work: Diplomacy. They are joined by Jim Burgess, a distinguished member of the Diplomacy community. The crew discusses what’s made it a gaming favorite for fifty years, a few ideas for improvements and what the future holds for the title.
While I’ve played several games similar to Diplomacy, I’ve never actually experienced the original for myself. I have to be honest, its reputation is part of that – I’m just not sure I could enjoy a game where you have to backstab other players in order to win. Maybe I’m just a softie!
Posted by Jon Shafer on March 21, 2013
Episode #18 is live!
This week Jon and Dirk are joined by Derek Yu, designer of Spelunky. He shares his design approach, the importance of challenge and permadeath. Derek also describes what it’s like to be a designer/artist hybrid, as opposed to the designer/programmers that this show has tended to focus on more in the past. He also touches on his unique development cycle where he oscillates between PC freeware and professional, for-purchase titles.
There are a few small spoilers, so beware, should you have any interest in exploring the game’s nuances for yourself!
Although I haven’t talked much about it here, I haven’t been shy about my love for Spelunky on the podcast. In fact, one of my next articles will be dedicated to the game, which is a very interesting example because it tends to break many of the “rules” I’ve outlined here on my site.
Posted by Jon Shafer on March 15, 2013
Episode #16 is now live!
Jon and Dirk are joined by Michael Tan, lead designer of War Stories, a new tabletop wargaming franchise that just launched on Kickstarter. Michael and Dirk talk about the experience of remotely designing a game together, and share many of the exciting and innovative features that help it stand out from other wargames.
When it comes to game design I typically work solo, so it was interesting hearing about a more collaborative process.
I haven’t played War Stories myself, the ideas Michael and Dirk have incorporated into it sound very promising. I especially love how they’re handling the map and movement, as it’s unlike anything I’ve heard of before. Innovation is always exciting!
Posted by Jon Shafer on February 28, 2013
Episode #15 is live!
In this week’s episode Jon and Dirk discuss two of their favorite tactical combat games: Relic’s Company of Heroes, and Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Our hosts discuss what these games did well, poorly and what changes they would make to them.
We’ve been meaning to do an episode dedicated to these games for a while now, so it was great to finally chat about them. I’m very excited for the impending release of Company of Heroes 2 - although thanks to ATG I may not have much time to play it!
Posted by Jon Shafer on February 21, 2013