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  1. The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Priniciple, was originally was established in 1896 by an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. 80/20 Rule The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Priniciple, was originally was established in 1896 by an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He created a mathematical formula describing the unequal distribution of wealth that was observed and measured in his country. He showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The principle was further developed by observing that 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. In short the rule basically says roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When applied to business it tends to state, "80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients". Since then it has become an integral part of business philosophies. There are quite a few different variations and methods that this concept have been applied. It doesn't have to be applied to just business either, almost everything from relationships, interactions with customers to productivity can apply this rule. 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers. 80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers. 80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products. 80% of a company sales are made by 20% of its sales staff. In a healthy relationship a person only gets 80% of what they really want out of it. 80% of a company's employee's are trivial, 20% are vital. There are also a few misunderstandings to this rule based on the misunderstanding of the concept. For example 80% + 20% does not equal 100%. You will never be able to please everyone, there is no 100% of the market. In terms of the 'vocal minority' and complaints about games. You can only satisfy 80% of the people who have brought your product. 80% of the people will be satisfied, while 20% may be negative. The same can be said that if 80% of your business comes from 20% of the customers, then do you focus more on that 20%? Although a good portion of the business comes from that 20%, you can get more volume by working on the other 80%. It’s not just important to work hard and work smart, but also to work smart on the right things. 20/60/20 Rule That brings us to the 20/60/20 Rule. This is a more refined version of the 80/20 rule designed to help save time, money and resources to get better results. Just like the 80/20 there are different variants and versions of it. In most of the variations and examples it basically breaks things down into three categories: Negative, Positive, Middle. 20% Positive: This is group of people understand what you are saying, they agree with your point of view. You don't have to give them a sales pitch, they already get it. This could be a customer who is ready to buy or even an employee who agrees with your new vision. This is a great group, you basically want to leave them alone. If you focus on them, you can risk over communicating. You can also waste time trying to influence or persuade them when they already have it, there isn't anything you need to do. 20% Negative: Before anything is said, before you've even started to communicate or open your mouth, this group is against whatever you want to say or sell. This can be a toxic few or even a vocal minority. The typical responses from people within this group are, "I'm too busy for this", "it will never work", "it doesn't make sense", "this is a waste of time". And no matter what you do, you will never be able to convince this group that your idea is good. You will never convince them that your product/service is great. It is best to completely leave this group alone. If you waste time on this group then all your efforts in persuading this group will be for nothing. It will only have an outcome that will leave you frustrated and lots of wasted effort. That is wasted effort that could have and should have been applied to the next group. That doesn't mean just completely ignore this group, but the time focused on it should be very limited. This group are often very smart people. Previously they may have been a positive but, over time, their bad experiences made them cynical and negative. They will prey on other people's fears by bringing up past grievances and identifying all the reasons why new ideas just won't work. If we focus too much time on negative, it will suck the energy and rarely makes a difference. Some people believe that if they listen to all the complaining and invest time with them, they will come around and be more positive... however the reality is it rarely makes a difference. For the time spent on turning 1 negative positive, you could have gotten 10 people from the middle moved to positive. 60% Middle, Workable: This is the most important group because it is malleable. There is where you want to apply your focus and can make a difference. This middle group can be influenced one way or the other depending on your interactions with them. This is the group that depending on further communications can grow to become positive or negative. Properly identifying people in this group can be hard but those are the people you want to identify, then spend the majority of the time finding out why they are on the fence. With focused attention and genuine interest, this group should be able to get the majority of the 60% to move over to the positive category. View full article
  2. Now that you have a basic idea if you want to get published or be self published, worked out some intricacies to the game, done a lot of testing. It was time to give it a greater form. Now that you have a basic idea if you want to get published or be self published, worked out some intricacies to the game, done a lot of testing. It was time to give it a greater form. Forming the Team Ultimately to be successful you need a good team. There are going to be a lot of points in the process where it helps to have someone pick you up and kick you in the butt. It also helps having a varied point of view and people who you can bounce ideas off of. I started with my wife who is also a gamer and a couple friends as we set out on this journey. A couple friends who I used to do rules with back during the World of Warcraft TCG days helped with testing, rule lawyering and design. Then we had a friend who is a 3D sculptor, although fresh out of school, he didn’t have a lot of experience but was someone that I could trust. I also have a friend who has a really successful local print shop. Other than artwork and graphic design, it seemed like a great team. For probably everyone except me this adventure was probably more of a hobby, considering I am focused to make this work and the one doing the main investing. I worked with the print shop to get costs down but still keep high quality media. Starting out this would probably require me working for free but I’ve helped out at the shop during holiday rush before so this wasn’t new. I did work out future costs so that eventually it wouldn’t need me working for free. The casting we’ve worked with and had that part down. Now that the production pieces seemed to be handled we just needed something to actually produce. When you think about it the concept of creating and publishing a game is pretty simple: Develop game, write out rules, test them along with the story/lore. Acquire artwork*, concept artwork for sculpting and final artwork. Get sculpting done*, either through traditional methods or 3D digital work. If digitally sculpted, print out 3D masters*. If traditional sculpted, get miniature cut up for casting*. Get masters created and initial production cast*. Get tokens, manuals, print materials, boxes done*. Package everything up and sell it*. There is a bit more in between each of those steps. Hopefully I’ll try to cover them all, along with where possible delays happen. Every point there is a * is a possible place, if you are working solo, that you are waiting for material or someone else to finish. Each of those points is a place that if there is a delay, it can cause a chain reaction of delays. That is all assuming you have the initial funds to create a print run, we haven’t gotten into funding methods and minimum order quantity (MOQ) yet but I’ll cover that part soon. There are four games that we’ve been working on, two of them are board games and two are miniatures games. We decided to go the self-publishing route for multiple reasons. One was I wanted to be more involved with the process but I also wasn’t too keen on someone changing my concept. I also think it is important to understand the full process, to be part of that, as it can be useful when you get to designing games. Event Horizon / Interstellar Crisis Before there was Star Wars X-Wing, Star Wars Armada, Halo Fleet Battles and Dropfleet there was Full Thrust, Star Fleet Battles, Battlefleet Gothic and a couple others. For the longest time those were the dominators of the spaceship battle games on the market. Even though a couple of them weren’t supported anymore, they were still popular. Compared to ground miniatures wargames and skirmish games though, the space games were a handful. It was partially for that reason we chose that as our starting point. There are also design decisions on this route. Spaceships sculpting wise as the more forgivable than infantry, they are also easier to sculpt which meant I could rely on a partner who may not had full experience yet. 3D costs for sculpting ships were more inexpensive, they were easier to cast and we believe we could offer something new. I’ll go more into this project a bit later but for now I want to lay the groundwork for some things. The Name Game One of the first rules of design is to not be married to the game. You might think that an idea or part is integral for the game, your local area might agree but then you find out it isn’t the majority. You also have to be aware that you can’t make everyone happy so you’ll have to make a decision that benefits the majority of your client-base. When we chose “Event Horizon” we thought we were being clever. An event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, in layman’s terms it is referred to as the “the point of no return”. Since conflict reached a certain point, a point of no return, before conflict erupted into full war it seemed to match. The jump drives the ships use for travel also create a gravitational field, which essentially creates a mini blackhole between the destination and place of origin. The name seemed to match that as well. Unfortunately everyone only saw the name as a reference to the 1997 horror / science fiction movie Event Horizon. You can be too clever… sometimes when you try to keep utilize the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) method it ends up being more complex. This is what happens when you have two friends that are engineers. The end result was that we needed to change the name. Funding / Kickstarter / IndieGoGo Before I segment more into sculpting, artwork and additional games we should take a look at funding. If we were going to seek a publisher, funding isn’t really an issue. Since we decided to self-publish, then that means something has to pay for the work being done. Even if I make the sacrifice of not getting paid, it isn’t fair to ask someone else unless they are partner to do it. It could be the greatest idea and might even make millions, however you shouldn’t have anyone working for free… that goes for artwork and sculpting as well. No simply getting credit for being part of a project isn’t enough to compensate someone for their time and work. That means your project will need to have funds. You have to put money into something to make something. The traditional method is to take out a line of credit, get a business loan or find funds from a generous benefactor. There are multiple ways to get funding through traditional methods. Even though I made the leap to do this, I am still working a full time job and I wasn’t allowed to take a 2nd mortgage on the house to fund my games. I did have some money which was put aside for hobbies. I set a certain amount of my paycheck aside that goes to personal expenses and hobbies. This meant funneling that money into the business, mostly to obtain artwork and sculpting. That also meant I couldn’t get too far ahead so had to make a careful plan, prioritize what I wanted and in what order. Some of that will be a bit more evident when I talk about art acquisition. I won’t go into a lot of detail about Kickstarter and IndieGoGo as I feel there are better posts that cover it. I will give a brief summary for those not familiar with them (are there people who still don’t know about them?). IndieGoGo This is one of the least popular methods. Don’t get me wrong, it has benefits for certain projects but isn’t the most popular for funding games. One of the main reasons is because you can set your campaign to fixed or flexible funding. Flexible funding means even if the goal isn’t met, the creator still gets all the money (minus fees of course). The other disadvantage is that it pulls money and charges you immediately when you back vs Kickstarter which waits until the campaign is over with. I think because of those things it gets the least amount of traffic and has a stigma associated with it unfortunately. Kickstarter This is the most popular method. I have been part of a three fairly successful Kickstarters, assisted in posting, administering the campaign and been part of the process. I will say it is a constant roller coaster for a creator. There isn’t a group account or admin account, so essentially we shared a creator login, but it allowed us to always have a presence in comments and post updates when needed. They were queued in an approved post so all that was left was to cut and paste when certain campaign levels were reached. I also ran my own campaign, although unsuccessful, but the experience was worthwhile. The main thing is Kickstarter today is much different than it was three years ago. This is mostly uniquely related to the games category than any other category. Some of it due to backers having more knowledge readily available to them. Another reason is unfortunately a few people have been stung by it, not received product which has made people very cautious and can create a semi-toxic environment at times. This has made it a bit more difficult for the new or smaller guy since backers want to see more product examples, than just renders and concept art. The advantages of Kickstarter however still make it worthwhile. You have to remember to communicate and outline the details early on. Estimating production time can be hard depending if you are dealing with overseas, no matter the estimates add on 20% more time as a buffer. Worse case is you’ll be delivering early. Don’t try an aggressive schedule for your first one. Be aware that even if you have vendors/sales saying you only need money and you are good, that doesn’t guarantee your place in a queue. Be sure you have your contracts and agreements outlined otherwise it is just cursory promise. I’ll try to cover a bit more of that when we get to dealing with other manufacturing companies. This should go without saying but it still doesn’t happen, be sure you understand all the costs with delivering your product from manufacturing to shipping, then estimate more. I’ve seen too many projects where if the initial product they funded have been fine, but after aggressively doing stretch goals they find they underestimated not only time but money. You’ll notice Kickstarters are starting to have 2 waves which is becoming a normal thing. The first wave usually handles the initial product, while the 2nd wave are additional add-on and/or stretch goals. Art Acquisition I will be coming back to this topic but wanted to say a couple things and add a few pictures, afterall no one just wants to read a bunch of text… there needs to be some shiny. Artist skill level and expectations vary greatly. You need to be clear, concise and understand the terms you set with an artist when you are acquiring artwork. Simply paying for a commission doesn’t mean you own the copyright to something. Often lower priced commissions are not meant for commercial resale, they are for people who want to pay for custom artwork (possibly fanart) created for them. If you plan on using it for commercial purposes, you need to communicate it with the artist. This will most likely cause a change in the price. It doesn’t matter if it is just concept art, not going on a box, if it is for a retail product you really want to communicate it. Some artists will require full payment up front. This isn’t uncommon for first time customers. However that doesn’t mean you should just blindly accept someone, be sure you research them, their work and make sure they are who you want to work with. Others will require half or a percentage up front and the rest upon delivery. When you’ve developed a good relationship with an artist they might start work and collect payment upon delivery. Outline payment terms up front, know what you are paying and when you are paying. How artists approach creating artwork can vary pretty big. Be sure you research the artists, that their styles match what you are looking for. Each artist has strengths, weakness and styles so you want to make sure what you are trying to get made they can do it. Don’t assume because they do great mecha, that they might be able to a dynamic battle or maybe you want them to create a character with some direction. They always want examples, clear information on what they are drawing to make sure what you are visualizing matches what they will actually draw. How they approach drawing the artwork may vary as well. I’m going to cover 4 different approaches by different artists but all roughly cost the same give or take about $50. Approach A: Given some reference pictures, type up descriptions they created this piece from scratch. There wasn’t a lot of questions after we outlined what we were looking for. There wasn’t additional feedback to determine if they were going down the same route or drafts, it was just one shot drawing. Approach B: Similar to above, we gave the artist an information packet. The packet contains reference pictures, descriptions of what we are looking for and examples. We received an initial draft which let us choose a style of outfit for the armor we were looking for. Then we received the final colored version after we picked the style. Approach C: Again similar to above, once the information packet was received. This time we got a rough draft with poses, then another draft later with outfit choices and then the final piece. Approach D: We got a real rough draft which I didn’t include in the examples. Then we received a primary draft with multiple options to choose from. We were able to give feedback on what we liked and didn’t like. This helped the artist get a better feel for what we wanted. Then was a third rough draft going a bit more detail on our choices, some matched and some stretching boundaries. Then a finalized concept which we went over color palette choices. Then we received the final versions. My communication with all these artists was pretty much the same thing. When I approached them I outlined what I was planning to do, I outlined which of their pieces in their portfolio/galleries interested me and provided them with information packet to determine prices. After discussing rights for the images and payment terms we went to work. The artwork doesn’t take too long to complete and I tend to give 1-2 weeks, although some took a month due to other projects. We communicated and wasn’t in a hurry so these were fine. Each one approached things differently though and that is part of what you want to highlight in your communication. If you expecting Approach D but instead get Approach A, it is probably because you weren’t clear in what you were looking for. View full article
  3. When you start with a game design you have to typically start somewhere. Either you start writing lore and develop a rule system that goes along with the story. Or you create a rule system and then later write lore, weaving it into your game based on the rules. Either way you have to make a plan on what you want your game to actually do. Starting Game Design When you start with a game design you have to typically start somewhere. Either you start writing lore and develop a rule system that goes along with the story. Or you create a rule system and then later write lore, weaving it into your game based on the rules. Either way you have to make a plan on what you want your game to actually do. You may not need to fully flesh out the rules or how to accomplish certain things, but you do need to figure out what you want the game to entail. After you determine the list of what you want it to do, you will need to order them in terms of priority. The more detailed your list, the better and easier it becomes to flesh things out and make sure you stay on track. That doesn't mean you can't change your mind on a design, it is just an outline to help guide the process. Code Zero started development years ago, at least when it comes to the world creation, lore, history and background. It was originally created and written as part of a Cyberpunk world. It was generic in terms that it wasn't tied particularly to a rule system either RPG or miniatures, but was able to be a setting for almost any future scifi game. It was futuristic scifi setting with a dark future focusing on greed and corruption. Humans nearly destroyed their home planet, spread to the galaxy in search of new worlds, planets, resources. Humans violent, greedy, emotional, creatures of habit, considered the cockroaches of the universe to many. There was a degree of racism weaved into the story. You had the pure almost Aryan faction, the most human. The was the religious faction, who took in the psionics, which many people feared and were racist too. There was the mutants, diseased, forgotten, considered monsters. The cybernetic faction, almost fully cyberized, birthed in pods, schooled at a young age until indoctrination into a cybernetic body. The pirate faction, rebels, pirates and mercenaries. Since we had the developed story. It was time to determine what we wanted from the actual game. What did we ultimately want to accomplish with game play? To answer and flesh that out, we started to create a list of everything we wanted the game to do. Futuristic Scifi Skirmish Game Utilizes a small amount of miniatures. Scaleable games, can utilize 5 models but can handle up to 30 models, creating multiple squads. Utilizes D10 Squad Based Combat A Squad is made up of 1-3 fireteams which consist of 3-5 models per fireteam. Squad is commanded by a Lieutenant, typically a hero, single model commander. For every squad you can have up to 2 Lieutenants or Sergeants (single models). Activation Point System Activation Points generated based on unit type. Single Lieutenants or Sergeants generate 1 AP. Fireteams (3-5 models) generate 2 AP. Activation Limit You can't use all activations on just one or two units only, but you aren't limited to just one activation. Lieutenants usually can be activated 2-3, depends on model. Fireteams usually can be activated once. Some units or Lieutenants can increase this amount. Players could activate a unit beyond the AP Limit, but until will gain Fatigue status, which can effect them. Alternate Activations Players alternate activations, until no more remaining AP or both pass. Player activates 1-2 hero or fireteams, then next player does the same. Shot/Long Action Basic activations consist of 2 short actions or 1 long action. Shoot + Move or Move + Shoot Move + Move or Shoot + Shoot Basic attacks, ranged, close quarters combat, suppression fire, grenades. Action/Reaction System Active player takes actions. Opposing player can react if LoS with opposing active player unit. Normal and opposed dice rolls for actions Overwatch (long action), reaction with access to full dice pool. Alternate Movement Methods Different Movement. Not just simply flight, mechanized or foot moving around, up and over obstacles. Jump Packs, Acrobatics, Flight Packs, Teleport Units, Wall Busters, Drop and Camouflage Troops Utilizes Terrain Utilizes terrain, preferably city, street fighting and interiors of building. Rules should allow other terrain fighting like jungle, swap, etc. Campaign / Scenario System Missions are about achieving objectives, not simply wiping out the other player. Scenario is a basic one shot game that most game systems use. Campaign is a set of 3-5 scenarios. Game play should have a cinematic feel to combat and movement. Other Equipment, Powers and Vehicles - Psionic Powers, Mutations, Vehicles, Cybernetic and Bioware Enhancements Warfare simply isn’t just about outmaneuvering, having better firepower or luck with rolling. There are unexpected situations that happen to create interesting encounters. That was why we wanted game play to be objective based, with their being varying objectives between players. We can also increase this by having command cards which may call in extra military assets or change things. For example call an off-board artillery strike or maybe another player boosts his troops (at a cost). We want the game play and turns to be fluid and make sense. There shouldn’t be a need to lookup rules in the rule book. Everything should be easy to understand and referenced on the player cards for ease. There are elements that are similar from other games but combined together with everything else, it should create a unique game play experience. Ultimately I think if we can recreate the feel of a real time strategy game with a miniatures game, with a bit of twist we should on track. History and lore should be rich with information, leaving plenty of maneuvering to change with future expansion. Rules should be able to be used for tournament structure, scale upwards and down. It should have the ability to expand into more (vehicles, weapons, equipment, etc), without limiting what is already available. With the initial brainstorming process we spent almost a month going over and analyzing. We wanted the games to be quick, but not too quick at one point it was completely abstract with nothing but checkers on a board that had a grid. Parts were removed, added and removed again for the outline until we roughly had the example above as a final version. At this point we were ready to move to the next step. Creating the Stats Now that we have a basic outline, have a general idea of the background and lore behind the game we move on to the core. Starting with the basics before we start play testing, we need to establish a baseline for the units involved. That means we have to determine what stats the units will have and how much they would have. We needed to determine a base understanding of what the numbers could mean. 2 - Untrained: Never picked up a weapon, used one, would at least succeed sometimes. Basically they should succeed roughly 20% against a non-moving, non-shooting target. 3 - Green: They understand the basics of a weapon, but never had real training. 4 - Regular: They have had basic training, but have not really applied it in the field with extended use. 5-6 - Veteran: They have survived basic training and actual combat, have a love more experience in the field. 6-7 - Elite: They've survived many more encounters, becoming the best of the best, best training and equipment. 7-8 - Hero: Hero and almost legendary levels, the leaders of most units. The numbers need to be applied to some stat to mean something. All units will need to have movement, hit points, mental (perception, intelligence, wits) and physical attributes (strength, dexterity, stamina). These attributes determine the dice pool that is used. There are normal dice rolls, when there is no opposing reaction. There are opposing rolls when there is a opposing reaction, with successes canceling each other out. Physical covered close combat, melee, shooting and constant use drained stamina (dice pool). Mental covered leadership, fear, and psionics. Quick and simple to use. We then had to ask ourselves do we want situations that a physical attribute doesn't cover all physical actions, should all physical actions basically be equal? Is there going to be a situation where we would want someone to be able to shoot better, but not be as good with melee or vice versa. Is there a situation that someone should be able to throw something better than shooting or fighting? Was it too simple in the current format and need more to create more diversity to characters? The answer was yes. Movement, Hit Points were staying constant but now we needed to add more. We added Ranged Combat, Close Quarters Combat attributes. Ranged covered everything dealing with ranged weapons. Close Quarters Combat dealt with melee, hand to hand, throwing weapons. Physical now covered feats of strength or stamina. Mental dealt with courage, fear and/or resolve in combat. We also added an armor attribute, since some units were unarmored or more armored than others. The armor effected whether they could or would take a wound. This process was only about a week. Not as long as the initial part because a lot of the discussions had already happened previously. Playing with Mechanics Now we had the basics, more or less equivalent to what many games have. Some have more attributes, saves, others have kept a more simplified version closer to what we started with as well. It was a start that would let us start to flesh out the game mechanics. With the basic units created and on a spreadsheet, that let us see how everyone matched up to each other. A game is more than just stats and attributes so before we could properly determine a value, working out point costs for everything, we had to develop the mechanics with the game more. We had basic units with a rough stat line, we had some basic weapons (assault rifle, pistol, knife, sword) and now we needed to figure how modifiers and how units relate to things. To start we started with two forces consisting of a Lieutenant, 2 fireteams of 3 models for a total of 7 miniatures. We set up a table, deployed, and played without dice. We would play multiple games taking notes, playing out in a storyteller, almost rpg fashion. We would move units, declare intentions of what we were doing, shooting and discuss based on individual model placements, what a rough outcome would be. It wasn't meant to be exact or determine a winner or loser. We wanted to determine just what options or actions we would available for our units. Then we would randomize players again, retest the gauntlet. This took quite a bit as we discussed different things from destroying walls, climbing, peeking around corners, cover, mines, grenades, locking doors, opening doors, jumping through windows, etc. With each new test we would ask and answer several questions which would help fine tune what would eventually become available during activations. Some examples of the questions we would ask would be: Is there a situation where one model could have LoS and shoot, but the target couldn't have LoS with the shooter? If cautiously moving, would they have access to full movement range? If cautiously moving, could they peek around a corner to shoot one model only when there was a fireteam of three? If shooting an assault rifle in close quarters range, was it less effective? Does a unactivated model have access to more dice pool to return fire vs a model previously activated? Can you set traps on objectives? Do models have a 360 degree of line of fire or does it just have 180 or less? Can models choose to switch weapons or have access to different ammo types? What are the advantages of an active unit, fighting against a reactive unit? Does attack position effect the outcome, if a unit is forward facing, does attacking from the side factor in? Is flanking simply considered attacking from the side of another unit or does flanking only come involved if multiple units attacking one from different directions? What does suppressive fire do (lower dice pool, can't react, something else)? How is camouflage different than stealth? When a fireteam reacts, does everyone get to respond? Are fireteam actions/reactions grouped together or handled individually? How does one determine who dies when a fireteam is fired on? When we determined quick fashion who won encounters, it sometimes was as simple as more power vs less. In some cases it was easier. A unit with 0 armor, 1 hit point is more likely to die vs someone who has 0 armor and 2 hit points. The guy with 2hp is almost twice as effective. If he had 1 armor and 1 hit point vs a 0 armor, 2 hit points then he was fairly even. The unit with armor being able to negate damage part of the time, but not all the time. We spent another month on this part going back and forth. Finalize Initial Mechanics After all the testing we have a pretty good idea what each action can do. We also have a basic idea of what we want each action to entail or possibilities for units. That let's us start to finally create an initial point system to measure the strength of weapons, equipment, units and their relation to each other. We also take this opportunity to look at attributes again, are there any we want to remove, add or modify? Don't be afraid to experiment. One discussion that happened was 'lethality of modern/future weapons' vs defensive equipment like armor. In a future world of lasers, plasma, caseless ammo and varying ammo types, is armor effective. If you were going against lightly or medium armored infantry, aren't armor piercing rounds still lethal and aren't they just as lethal against no armor? For a time we did abstract armor saves, reducing a step, by removing them and having the contested roll determine survival. The contested roll basically covered who shot first, who hit who and if it was lethal enough to cause a wound. This abstraction worked out fine when we were only dealing with infantry. It wasn't until we started to add vehicle armor, power armor, mecha, and robots that this started to not make sense. Larger armored vehicles had increased survival rate, not so much because of armor but because of what it took to disable it. There was also the cyberized faction to consider as they are basically fully armored people, not just an armor outer shell. Armor as a value ended up being added back in. Game testing for this has been proceeding for months. Factions were essentially the same, some had access to better units than others. Each step in the process we added more, psionics, special weapon and support upgrades, command points for certain actions, and healing. Now we have been making changes to what factions have access too, adding in certain strengths and weaknesses to make them more unique, effecting the access to tactics and how they were utilized. With board games we go through a similar design process. Start with what we want to accomplish, create a guide, discuss the story and actions, create a necessary attribute/stat line. Rinse and repeat multiple times, polishing each part, until the vote comes back that it is near complete. View full article
  4. We all like to think and believe that when we come up with an idea, it is an original idea. Chances are however that idea is most likely not as original as you think or believe. In most situations given similar environments and conditions, other people will come to the same conclusions. Games are no exception to this rule. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to create something unique and new, but don’t be shocked if a similar design exists. Game Designers in a way are like storytellers, although we are telling the same story we tell them in different ways from different perspectives. It Has Been Done We all like to think and believe that when we come up with an idea, it is an original idea. Chances are however that idea is most likely not as original as you think or believe. In most situations given similar environments and conditions, other people will come to the same conclusions. Games are no exception to this rule. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to create something unique and new, but don’t be shocked if a similar design exists. Game Designers in a way are like storytellers, although we are telling the same story we tell them in different ways from different perspectives. That doesn't mean something new can't be created. Every once and awhile a game designer does come up with a unique mechanic. Gravwell from Renegade Games is an example of something that is unique (at least I haven't seen it used but I haven't played every game in existence yet). It only utilizes 26 cards and the alphabet to determine player order and resolution, everything else is based on the position of the ships around your own. Depending on the card played, it determines how many places you move based on the closest ship to you at the time. You can move X spaces in the direction of the nearest ship, Y spaces away from the nearest ship or you don’t move but everyone else moves Z spaces towards you. Players pick the card to play in secret, then reveal at once and they resolve based on the card letter. Keep in mind there are only 26 cards, the card you picked might have resolved one way but because someone went before you, it now can affect how your card ultimately resolves. Great game, simple, fun and fairly quick to play. It is ok, if your idea isn't unique so don't try to force something just to make it different just because you want something different. If it feels awkward or clunky, don't keep using it because just to be different, it should feel natural. In the end no matter what you design or how unique you think it may be, it will always end up being compared to something else. If you make a deck building game, it will be compared to other deck building games even if there are a lot of differences. That isn't necessarily a bad or a good thing but it is something you should prepare yourself for. Almost every board game at the core can be broken down based by their mechanics into similar categories. The most common ones known are worker placement, co-operative play, area/territory control, dice rolling, etc. You can find more information about the various mechanics and games that use them here and here. A game could have multiple mechanics associated with it so it doesn't just fit into one category, but don't make it too complex. Remember K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Just like board games, miniatures gaming all share commonalities that can break them down their mechanics into IGO.UGO, alternating turns, action/reaction games, and hidden movement to name a few. The heart, the base core of each of these games are all the same. They all contain miniatures, that we play on a table with terrain and utilize some device to measure distances like a tape measure or ruler. We create armies or have unit lists based on stat cards and/or profile sheets. Each player takes turns activating, moving their units. We then roll dice to determine successes of those actions. Some games have variations but still the same mechanics like using cards to determine success, instead of dice rolling. Movement/Actions may vary from IGU.UGO, to alternating turns or alternating model activation. The results are all the same. There is even grid or zone type of mechanic as well. Why doesn't someone simply take Game A, replace the miniatures and have instant success? It is a simple and yet complicated process. If you look at the majority of games, a good portion of them simply just do this. However the rules aren't what will completely make a game successful. There are also minor changes that need to change in terms of terminology because of trademarks. Themeing a game properly can make all the difference. All game rules have their pros and cons. Great games aren't just determine by good rules or good miniatures or great lore. Good games are a combination of them all, married together and built with a good community. There is no one rules system that is better than everything, it is just that there are rule systems that are better depending on players preferences. Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents I won't go into a lot of detail talking about Copyright, Trademarks and Patents because it isn't a simple issue even for lawyers. For the most part you don't have to worry about a patent, nor should you really worry about copyrights or trademarks. There is one thing you should check on trademarks, make sure a term isn't used. A lot of games use generic definitions and terms, you can't trademark or copyright many common definitions and terms like strength, agility, action, reaction, etc. Some terms are trademarked and you should make sure you aren't in violation or it can cause problems elsewhere. One example is when Upper Deck started to re-release Vs calling it a Living Card Game. That term is trademarked by Fantasy Flight Games. Although many types of games are similar to what a LCG is, they hold the trademark so avoid using that in your title. I'll summarize Copyrights by quoting Lisa Steenson from Gut Bustin' Games. She said during a panel at a convention, "Although it can be difficult to protect a game design, most publishers are not in the business of stealing designs - their reputation is on the line. If you are self-publishing, consider registering the copyright on your rules and game components. You have copyright on your intellectual property upon the moment of creation, but registering that copyright allows you greater protection in a court of law in cases of infringement. Typically registration requires 1 copy of the game to be sent to the Library of Congress if published, along with an application fee of about $45. This has inherent advantages and does not cost an unreasonable amount - just the fee and the cost of sending off a single game. For more information, read about copyrighting games in the US on the official government copyright office website. Don't bother with seeking a patent. The short answer is that game designs cannot be patented and it is a very expensive and complex process." When you are creating a game, don't be afraid to share the mechanics of how a game works because you are afraid someone will steal your idea. There are many times I’ve seen people try to ask what you think about a game, but are being really secretive on how it is played because of this fear. Overall it will hurt how people view it if they don’t know more about it. It is better to know ahead of time what people think, before investing a lot of time and effort into what you may be great but others think is a bad idea. There are quite a few game ideas that I think are going to be great, then after sitting down and going through the motions I’ve found that they didn’t seem interesting or fun to others. The game industry itself is a small industry, a multi-million dollar market but overall the players involved are well known. When attending conventions like GenCon or Origins many publishers and designers meetup, get together and talk. One example was when someone approached one publisher to publish a game. When looking over it, it was discussed with another publisher on what they thought and discovered that it was also being pitched to them as well. Not only was it being pitched, they had asked them to not show it to other publishers as they were considering a legitimate offer. Although not completely common, both parties did agree to it, so the designer was violating the agreement. In the end neither party picked it up. Often over meals or after hours game sessions, multiple publishers get together to play and talk. It really is a small world, at least with board games. View full article
  5. Rule of 80/20

    80/20 Rule The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Priniciple, was originally was established in 1896 by an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He created a mathematical formula describing the unequal distribution of wealth that was observed and measured in his country. He showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The principle was further developed by observing that 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. In short the rule basically says roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When applied to business it tends to state, "80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients". Since then it has become an integral part of business philosophies. There are quite a few different variations and methods that this concept have been applied. It doesn't have to be applied to just business either, almost everything from relationships, interactions with customers to productivity can apply this rule. 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers. 80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers. 80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products. 80% of a company sales are made by 20% of its sales staff. In a healthy relationship a person only gets 80% of what they really want out of it. 80% of a company's employee's are trivial, 20% are vital. There are also a few misunderstandings to this rule based on the misunderstanding of the concept. For example 80% + 20% does not equal 100%. You will never be able to please everyone, there is no 100% of the market. In terms of the 'vocal minority' and complaints about games. You can only satisfy 80% of the people who have brought your product. 80% of the people will be satisfied, while 20% may be negative. The same can be said that if 80% of your business comes from 20% of the customers, then do you focus more on that 20%? Although a good portion of the business comes from that 20%, you can get more volume by working on the other 80%. It’s not just important to work hard and work smart, but also to work smart on the right things. 20/60/20 Rule That brings us to the 20/60/20 Rule. This is a more refined version of the 80/20 rule designed to help save time, money and resources to get better results. Just like the 80/20 there are different variants and versions of it. In most of the variations and examples it basically breaks things down into three categories: Negative, Positive, Middle. 20% Positive: This is group of people understand what you are saying, they agree with your point of view. You don't have to give them a sales pitch, they already get it. This could be a customer who is ready to buy or even an employee who agrees with your new vision. This is a great group, you basically want to leave them alone. If you focus on them, you can risk over communicating. You can also waste time trying to influence or persuade them when they already have it, there isn't anything you need to do. 20% Negative: Before anything is said, before you've even started to communicate or open your mouth, this group is against whatever you want to say or sell. This can be a toxic few or even a vocal minority. The typical responses from people within this group are, "I'm too busy for this", "it will never work", "it doesn't make sense", "this is a waste of time". And no matter what you do, you will never be able to convince this group that your idea is good. You will never convince them that your product/service is great. It is best to completely leave this group alone. If you waste time on this group then all your efforts in persuading this group will be for nothing. It will only have an outcome that will leave you frustrated and lots of wasted effort. That is wasted effort that could have and should have been applied to the next group. That doesn't mean just completely ignore this group, but the time focused on it should be very limited. This group are often very smart people. Previously they may have been a positive but, over time, their bad experiences made them cynical and negative. They will prey on other people's fears by bringing up past grievances and identifying all the reasons why new ideas just won't work. If we focus too much time on negative, it will suck the energy and rarely makes a difference. Some people believe that if they listen to all the complaining and invest time with them, they will come around and be more positive... however the reality is it rarely makes a difference. For the time spent on turning 1 negative positive, you could have gotten 10 people from the middle moved to positive. 60% Middle, Workable: This is the most important group because it is malleable. There is where you want to apply your focus and can make a difference. This middle group can be influenced one way or the other depending on your interactions with them. This is the group that depending on further communications can grow to become positive or negative. Properly identifying people in this group can be hard but those are the people you want to identify, then spend the majority of the time finding out why they are on the fence. With focused attention and genuine interest, this group should be able to get the majority of the 60% to move over to the positive category.
  6. It Has Been Done Before

    It Has Been Done We all like to think and believe that when we come up with an idea, it is an original idea. Chances are however that idea is most likely not as original as you think or believe. In most situations given similar environments and conditions, other people will come to the same conclusions. Games are no exception to this rule. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to create something unique and new, but don’t be shocked if a similar design exists. Game Designers in a way are like storytellers, although we are telling the same story we tell them in different ways from different perspectives. That doesn't mean something new can't be created. Every once and awhile a game designer does come up with a unique mechanic. Gravwell from Renegade Games is an example of something that is unique (at least I haven't seen it used but I haven't played every game in existence yet). It only utilizes 26 cards and the alphabet to determine player order and resolution, everything else is based on the position of the ships around your own. Depending on the card played, it determines how many places you move based on the closest ship to you at the time. You can move X spaces in the direction of the nearest ship, Y spaces away from the nearest ship or you don’t move but everyone else moves Z spaces towards you. Players pick the card to play in secret, then reveal at once and they resolve based on the card letter. Keep in mind there are only 26 cards, the card you picked might have resolved one way but because someone went before you, it now can affect how your card ultimately resolves. Great game, simple, fun and fairly quick to play. It is ok, if your idea isn't unique so don't try to force something just to make it different just because you want something different. If it feels awkward or clunky, don't keep using it because just to be different, it should feel natural. In the end no matter what you design or how unique you think it may be, it will always end up being compared to something else. If you make a deck building game, it will be compared to other deck building games even if there are a lot of differences. That isn't necessarily a bad or a good thing but it is something you should prepare yourself for. Almost every board game at the core can be broken down based by their mechanics into similar categories. The most common ones known are worker placement, co-operative play, area/territory control, dice rolling, etc. You can find more information about the various mechanics and games that use them here and here. A game could have multiple mechanics associated with it so it doesn't just fit into one category, but don't make it too complex. Remember K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Just like board games, miniatures gaming all share commonalities that can break them down their mechanics into IGO.UGO, alternating turns, action/reaction games, and hidden movement to name a few. The heart, the base core of each of these games are all the same. They all contain miniatures, that we play on a table with terrain and utilize some device to measure distances like a tape measure or ruler. We create armies or have unit lists based on stat cards and/or profile sheets. Each player takes turns activating, moving their units. We then roll dice to determine successes of those actions. Some games have variations but still the same mechanics like using cards to determine success, instead of dice rolling. Movement/Actions may vary from IGU.UGO, to alternating turns or alternating model activation. The results are all the same. There is even grid or zone type of mechanic as well. Why doesn't someone simply take Game A, replace the miniatures and have instant success? It is a simple and yet complicated process. If you look at the majority of games, a good portion of them simply just do this. However the rules aren't what will completely make a game successful. There are also minor changes that need to change in terms of terminology because of trademarks. Themeing a game properly can make all the difference. All game rules have their pros and cons. Great games aren't just determine by good rules or good miniatures or great lore. Good games are a combination of them all, married together and built with a good community. There is no one rules system that is better than everything, it is just that there are rule systems that are better depending on players preferences. Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents I won't go into a lot of detail talking about Copyright, Trademarks and Patents because it isn't a simple issue even for lawyers. For the most part you don't have to worry about a patent, nor should you really worry about copyrights or trademarks. There is one thing you should check on trademarks, make sure a term isn't used. A lot of games use generic definitions and terms, you can't trademark or copyright many common definitions and terms like strength, agility, action, reaction, etc. Some terms are trademarked and you should make sure you aren't in violation or it can cause problems elsewhere. One example is when Upper Deck started to re-release Vs calling it a Living Card Game. That term is trademarked by Fantasy Flight Games. Although many types of games are similar to what a LCG is, they hold the trademark so avoid using that in your title. I'll summarize Copyrights by quoting Lisa Steenson from Gut Bustin' Games. She said during a panel at a convention, "Although it can be difficult to protect a game design, most publishers are not in the business of stealing designs - their reputation is on the line. If you are self-publishing, consider registering the copyright on your rules and game components. You have copyright on your intellectual property upon the moment of creation, but registering that copyright allows you greater protection in a court of law in cases of infringement. Typically registration requires 1 copy of the game to be sent to the Library of Congress if published, along with an application fee of about $45. This has inherent advantages and does not cost an unreasonable amount - just the fee and the cost of sending off a single game. For more information, read about copyrighting games in the US on the official government copyright office website. Don't bother with seeking a patent. The short answer is that game designs cannot be patented and it is a very expensive and complex process." When you are creating a game, don't be afraid to share the mechanics of how a game works because you are afraid someone will steal your idea. There are many times I’ve seen people try to ask what you think about a game, but are being really secretive on how it is played because of this fear. Overall it will hurt how people view it if they don’t know more about it. It is better to know ahead of time what people think, before investing a lot of time and effort into what you may be great but others think is a bad idea. There are quite a few game ideas that I think are going to be great, then after sitting down and going through the motions I’ve found that they didn’t seem interesting or fun to others. The game industry itself is a small industry, a multi-million dollar market but overall the players involved are well known. When attending conventions like GenCon or Origins many publishers and designers meetup, get together and talk. One example was when someone approached one publisher to publish a game. When looking over it, it was discussed with another publisher on what they thought and discovered that it was also being pitched to them as well. Not only was it being pitched, they had asked them to not show it to other publishers as they were considering a legitimate offer. Although not completely common, both parties did agree to it, so the designer was violating the agreement. In the end neither party picked it up. Often over meals or after hours game sessions, multiple publishers get together to play and talk. It really is a small world, at least with board games.
  7. Expanding Your Design

    Now that you have a basic idea if you want to get published or be self published, worked out some intricacies to the game, done a lot of testing. It was time to give it a greater form. Forming the Team Ultimately to be successful you need a good team. There are going to be a lot of points in the process where it helps to have someone pick you up and kick you in the butt. It also helps having a varied point of view and people who you can bounce ideas off of. I started with my wife who is also a gamer and a couple friends as we set out on this journey. A couple friends who I used to do rules with back during the World of Warcraft TCG days helped with testing, rule lawyering and design. Then we had a friend who is a 3D sculptor, although fresh out of school, he didn’t have a lot of experience but was someone that I could trust. I also have a friend who has a really successful local print shop. Other than artwork and graphic design, it seemed like a great team. For probably everyone except me this adventure was probably more of a hobby, considering I am focused to make this work and the one doing the main investing. I worked with the print shop to get costs down but still keep high quality media. Starting out this would probably require me working for free but I’ve helped out at the shop during holiday rush before so this wasn’t new. I did work out future costs so that eventually it wouldn’t need me working for free. The casting we’ve worked with and had that part down. Now that the production pieces seemed to be handled we just needed something to actually produce. When you think about it the concept of creating and publishing a game is pretty simple: Develop game, write out rules, test them along with the story/lore. Acquire artwork*, concept artwork for sculpting and final artwork. Get sculpting done*, either through traditional methods or 3D digital work. If digitally sculpted, print out 3D masters*. If traditional sculpted, get miniature cut up for casting*. Get masters created and initial production cast*. Get tokens, manuals, print materials, boxes done*. Package everything up and sell it*. There is a bit more in between each of those steps. Hopefully I’ll try to cover them all, along with where possible delays happen. Every point there is a * is a possible place, if you are working solo, that you are waiting for material or someone else to finish. Each of those points is a place that if there is a delay, it can cause a chain reaction of delays. That is all assuming you have the initial funds to create a print run, we haven’t gotten into funding methods and minimum order quantity (MOQ) yet but I’ll cover that part soon. There are four games that we’ve been working on, two of them are board games and two are miniatures games. We decided to go the self-publishing route for multiple reasons. One was I wanted to be more involved with the process but I also wasn’t too keen on someone changing my concept. I also think it is important to understand the full process, to be part of that, as it can be useful when you get to designing games. Event Horizon / Interstellar Crisis Before there was Star Wars X-Wing, Star Wars Armada, Halo Fleet Battles and Dropfleet there was Full Thrust, Star Fleet Battles, Battlefleet Gothic and a couple others. For the longest time those were the dominators of the spaceship battle games on the market. Even though a couple of them weren’t supported anymore, they were still popular. Compared to ground miniatures wargames and skirmish games though, the space games were a handful. It was partially for that reason we chose that as our starting point. There are also design decisions on this route. Spaceships sculpting wise as the more forgivable than infantry, they are also easier to sculpt which meant I could rely on a partner who may not had full experience yet. 3D costs for sculpting ships were more inexpensive, they were easier to cast and we believe we could offer something new. I’ll go more into this project a bit later but for now I want to lay the groundwork for some things. The Name Game One of the first rules of design is to not be married to the game. You might think that an idea or part is integral for the game, your local area might agree but then you find out it isn’t the majority. You also have to be aware that you can’t make everyone happy so you’ll have to make a decision that benefits the majority of your client-base. When we chose “Event Horizon” we thought we were being clever. An event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, in layman’s terms it is referred to as the “the point of no return”. Since conflict reached a certain point, a point of no return, before conflict erupted into full war it seemed to match. The jump drives the ships use for travel also create a gravitational field, which essentially creates a mini blackhole between the destination and place of origin. The name seemed to match that as well. Unfortunately everyone only saw the name as a reference to the 1997 horror / science fiction movie Event Horizon. You can be too clever… sometimes when you try to keep utilize the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) method it ends up being more complex. This is what happens when you have two friends that are engineers. The end result was that we needed to change the name. Funding / Kickstarter / IndieGoGo Before I segment more into sculpting, artwork and additional games we should take a look at funding. If we were going to seek a publisher, funding isn’t really an issue. Since we decided to self-publish, then that means something has to pay for the work being done. Even if I make the sacrifice of not getting paid, it isn’t fair to ask someone else unless they are partner to do it. It could be the greatest idea and might even make millions, however you shouldn’t have anyone working for free… that goes for artwork and sculpting as well. No simply getting credit for being part of a project isn’t enough to compensate someone for their time and work. That means your project will need to have funds. You have to put money into something to make something. The traditional method is to take out a line of credit, get a business loan or find funds from a generous benefactor. There are multiple ways to get funding through traditional methods. Even though I made the leap to do this, I am still working a full time job and I wasn’t allowed to take a 2nd mortgage on the house to fund my games. I did have some money which was put aside for hobbies. I set a certain amount of my paycheck aside that goes to personal expenses and hobbies. This meant funneling that money into the business, mostly to obtain artwork and sculpting. That also meant I couldn’t get too far ahead so had to make a careful plan, prioritize what I wanted and in what order. Some of that will be a bit more evident when I talk about art acquisition. I won’t go into a lot of detail about Kickstarter and IndieGoGo as I feel there are better posts that cover it. I will give a brief summary for those not familiar with them (are there people who still don’t know about them?). IndieGoGo This is one of the least popular methods. Don’t get me wrong, it has benefits for certain projects but isn’t the most popular for funding games. One of the main reasons is because you can set your campaign to fixed or flexible funding. Flexible funding means even if the goal isn’t met, the creator still gets all the money (minus fees of course). The other disadvantage is that it pulls money and charges you immediately when you back vs Kickstarter which waits until the campaign is over with. I think because of those things it gets the least amount of traffic and has a stigma associated with it unfortunately. Kickstarter This is the most popular method. I have been part of a three fairly successful Kickstarters, assisted in posting, administering the campaign and been part of the process. I will say it is a constant roller coaster for a creator. There isn’t a group account or admin account, so essentially we shared a creator login, but it allowed us to always have a presence in comments and post updates when needed. They were queued in an approved post so all that was left was to cut and paste when certain campaign levels were reached. I also ran my own campaign, although unsuccessful, but the experience was worthwhile. The main thing is Kickstarter today is much different than it was three years ago. This is mostly uniquely related to the games category than any other category. Some of it due to backers having more knowledge readily available to them. Another reason is unfortunately a few people have been stung by it, not received product which has made people very cautious and can create a semi-toxic environment at times. This has made it a bit more difficult for the new or smaller guy since backers want to see more product examples, than just renders and concept art. The advantages of Kickstarter however still make it worthwhile. You have to remember to communicate and outline the details early on. Estimating production time can be hard depending if you are dealing with overseas, no matter the estimates add on 20% more time as a buffer. Worse case is you’ll be delivering early. Don’t try an aggressive schedule for your first one. Be aware that even if you have vendors/sales saying you only need money and you are good, that doesn’t guarantee your place in a queue. Be sure you have your contracts and agreements outlined otherwise it is just cursory promise. I’ll try to cover a bit more of that when we get to dealing with other manufacturing companies. This should go without saying but it still doesn’t happen, be sure you understand all the costs with delivering your product from manufacturing to shipping, then estimate more. I’ve seen too many projects where if the initial product they funded have been fine, but after aggressively doing stretch goals they find they underestimated not only time but money. You’ll notice Kickstarters are starting to have 2 waves which is becoming a normal thing. The first wave usually handles the initial product, while the 2nd wave are additional add-on and/or stretch goals. Art Acquisition I will be coming back to this topic but wanted to say a couple things and add a few pictures, afterall no one just wants to read a bunch of text… there needs to be some shiny. Artist skill level and expectations vary greatly. You need to be clear, concise and understand the terms you set with an artist when you are acquiring artwork. Simply paying for a commission doesn’t mean you own the copyright to something. Often lower priced commissions are not meant for commercial resale, they are for people who want to pay for custom artwork (possibly fanart) created for them. If you plan on using it for commercial purposes, you need to communicate it with the artist. This will most likely cause a change in the price. It doesn’t matter if it is just concept art, not going on a box, if it is for a retail product you really want to communicate it. Some artists will require full payment up front. This isn’t uncommon for first time customers. However that doesn’t mean you should just blindly accept someone, be sure you research them, their work and make sure they are who you want to work with. Others will require half or a percentage up front and the rest upon delivery. When you’ve developed a good relationship with an artist they might start work and collect payment upon delivery. Outline payment terms up front, know what you are paying and when you are paying. How artists approach creating artwork can vary pretty big. Be sure you research the artists, that their styles match what you are looking for. Each artist has strengths, weakness and styles so you want to make sure what you are trying to get made they can do it. Don’t assume because they do great mecha, that they might be able to a dynamic battle or maybe you want them to create a character with some direction. They always want examples, clear information on what they are drawing to make sure what you are visualizing matches what they will actually draw. How they approach drawing the artwork may vary as well. I’m going to cover 4 different approaches by different artists but all roughly cost the same give or take about $50. Approach A: Given some reference pictures, type up descriptions they created this piece from scratch. There wasn’t a lot of questions after we outlined what we were looking for. There wasn’t additional feedback to determine if they were going down the same route or drafts, it was just one shot drawing. Approach B: Similar to above, we gave the artist an information packet. The packet contains reference pictures, descriptions of what we are looking for and examples. We received an initial draft which let us choose a style of outfit for the armor we were looking for. Then we received the final colored version after we picked the style. Approach C: Again similar to above, once the information packet was received. This time we got a rough draft with poses, then another draft later with outfit choices and then the final piece. Approach D: We got a real rough draft which I didn’t include in the examples. Then we received a primary draft with multiple options to choose from. We were able to give feedback on what we liked and didn’t like. This helped the artist get a better feel for what we wanted. Then was a third rough draft going a bit more detail on our choices, some matched and some stretching boundaries. Then a finalized concept which we went over color palette choices. Then we received the final versions. My communication with all these artists was pretty much the same thing. When I approached them I outlined what I was planning to do, I outlined which of their pieces in their portfolio/galleries interested me and provided them with information packet to determine prices. After discussing rights for the images and payment terms we went to work. The artwork doesn’t take too long to complete and I tend to give 1-2 weeks, although some took a month due to other projects. We communicated and wasn’t in a hurry so these were fine. Each one approached things differently though and that is part of what you want to highlight in your communication. If you expecting Approach D but instead get Approach A, it is probably because you weren’t clear in what you were looking for.
  8. Starting Game Design

    Starting Game Design When you start with a game design you have to typically start somewhere. Either you start writing lore and develop a rule system that goes along with the story. Or you create a rule system and then later write lore, weaving it into your game based on the rules. Either way you have to make a plan on what you want your game to actually do. You may not need to fully flesh out the rules or how to accomplish certain things, but you do need to figure out what you want the game to entail. After you determine the list of what you want it to do, you will need to order them in terms of priority. The more detailed your list, the better and easier it becomes to flesh things out and make sure you stay on track. That doesn't mean you can't change your mind on a design, it is just an outline to help guide the process. Code Zero started development years ago, at least when it comes to the world creation, lore, history and background. It was originally created and written as part of a Cyberpunk world. It was generic in terms that it wasn't tied particularly to a rule system either RPG or miniatures, but was able to be a setting for almost any future scifi game. It was futuristic scifi setting with a dark future focusing on greed and corruption. Humans nearly destroyed their home planet, spread to the galaxy in search of new worlds, planets, resources. Humans violent, greedy, emotional, creatures of habit, considered the cockroaches of the universe to many. There was a degree of racism weaved into the story. You had the pure almost Aryan faction, the most human. The was the religious faction, who took in the psionics, which many people feared and were racist too. There was the mutants, diseased, forgotten, considered monsters. The cybernetic faction, almost fully cyberized, birthed in pods, schooled at a young age until indoctrination into a cybernetic body. The pirate faction, rebels, pirates and mercenaries. Since we had the developed story. It was time to determine what we wanted from the actual game. What did we ultimately want to accomplish with game play? To answer and flesh that out, we started to create a list of everything we wanted the game to do. Futuristic Scifi Skirmish Game Utilizes a small amount of miniatures. Scaleable games, can utilize 5 models but can handle up to 30 models, creating multiple squads. Utilizes D10 Squad Based Combat A Squad is made up of 1-3 fireteams which consist of 3-5 models per fireteam. Squad is commanded by a Lieutenant, typically a hero, single model commander. For every squad you can have up to 2 Lieutenants or Sergeants (single models). Activation Point System Activation Points generated based on unit type. Single Lieutenants or Sergeants generate 1 AP. Fireteams (3-5 models) generate 2 AP. Activation Limit You can't use all activations on just one or two units only, but you aren't limited to just one activation. Lieutenants usually can be activated 2-3, depends on model. Fireteams usually can be activated once. Some units or Lieutenants can increase this amount. Players could activate a unit beyond the AP Limit, but until will gain Fatigue status, which can effect them. Alternate Activations Players alternate activations, until no more remaining AP or both pass. Player activates 1-2 hero or fireteams, then next player does the same. Shot/Long Action Basic activations consist of 2 short actions or 1 long action. Shoot + Move or Move + Shoot Move + Move or Shoot + Shoot Basic attacks, ranged, close quarters combat, suppression fire, grenades. Action/Reaction System Active player takes actions. Opposing player can react if LoS with opposing active player unit. Normal and opposed dice rolls for actions Overwatch (long action), reaction with access to full dice pool. Alternate Movement Methods Different Movement. Not just simply flight, mechanized or foot moving around, up and over obstacles. Jump Packs, Acrobatics, Flight Packs, Teleport Units, Wall Busters, Drop and Camouflage Troops Utilizes Terrain Utilizes terrain, preferably city, street fighting and interiors of building. Rules should allow other terrain fighting like jungle, swap, etc. Campaign / Scenario System Missions are about achieving objectives, not simply wiping out the other player. Scenario is a basic one shot game that most game systems use. Campaign is a set of 3-5 scenarios. Game play should have a cinematic feel to combat and movement. Other Equipment, Powers and Vehicles - Psionic Powers, Mutations, Vehicles, Cybernetic and Bioware Enhancements Warfare simply isn’t just about outmaneuvering, having better firepower or luck with rolling. There are unexpected situations that happen to create interesting encounters. That was why we wanted game play to be objective based, with their being varying objectives between players. We can also increase this by having command cards which may call in extra military assets or change things. For example call an off-board artillery strike or maybe another player boosts his troops (at a cost). We want the game play and turns to be fluid and make sense. There shouldn’t be a need to lookup rules in the rule book. Everything should be easy to understand and referenced on the player cards for ease. There are elements that are similar from other games but combined together with everything else, it should create a unique game play experience. Ultimately I think if we can recreate the feel of a real time strategy game with a miniatures game, with a bit of twist we should on track. History and lore should be rich with information, leaving plenty of maneuvering to change with future expansion. Rules should be able to be used for tournament structure, scale upwards and down. It should have the ability to expand into more (vehicles, weapons, equipment, etc), without limiting what is already available. With the initial brainstorming process we spent almost a month going over and analyzing. We wanted the games to be quick, but not too quick at one point it was completely abstract with nothing but checkers on a board that had a grid. Parts were removed, added and removed again for the outline until we roughly had the example above as a final version. At this point we were ready to move to the next step. Creating the Stats Now that we have a basic outline, have a general idea of the background and lore behind the game we move on to the core. Starting with the basics before we start play testing, we need to establish a baseline for the units involved. That means we have to determine what stats the units will have and how much they would have. We needed to determine a base understanding of what the numbers could mean. 2 - Untrained: Never picked up a weapon, used one, would at least succeed sometimes. Basically they should succeed roughly 20% against a non-moving, non-shooting target. 3 - Green: They understand the basics of a weapon, but never had real training. 4 - Regular: They have had basic training, but have not really applied it in the field with extended use. 5-6 - Veteran: They have survived basic training and actual combat, have a love more experience in the field. 6-7 - Elite: They've survived many more encounters, becoming the best of the best, best training and equipment. 7-8 - Hero: Hero and almost legendary levels, the leaders of most units. The numbers need to be applied to some stat to mean something. All units will need to have movement, hit points, mental (perception, intelligence, wits) and physical attributes (strength, dexterity, stamina). These attributes determine the dice pool that is used. There are normal dice rolls, when there is no opposing reaction. There are opposing rolls when there is a opposing reaction, with successes canceling each other out. Physical covered close combat, melee, shooting and constant use drained stamina (dice pool). Mental covered leadership, fear, and psionics. Quick and simple to use. We then had to ask ourselves do we want situations that a physical attribute doesn't cover all physical actions, should all physical actions basically be equal? Is there going to be a situation where we would want someone to be able to shoot better, but not be as good with melee or vice versa. Is there a situation that someone should be able to throw something better than shooting or fighting? Was it too simple in the current format and need more to create more diversity to characters? The answer was yes. Movement, Hit Points were staying constant but now we needed to add more. We added Ranged Combat, Close Quarters Combat attributes. Ranged covered everything dealing with ranged weapons. Close Quarters Combat dealt with melee, hand to hand, throwing weapons. Physical now covered feats of strength or stamina. Mental dealt with courage, fear and/or resolve in combat. We also added an armor attribute, since some units were unarmored or more armored than others. The armor effected whether they could or would take a wound. This process was only about a week. Not as long as the initial part because a lot of the discussions had already happened previously. Playing with Mechanics Now we had the basics, more or less equivalent to what many games have. Some have more attributes, saves, others have kept a more simplified version closer to what we started with as well. It was a start that would let us start to flesh out the game mechanics. With the basic units created and on a spreadsheet, that let us see how everyone matched up to each other. A game is more than just stats and attributes so before we could properly determine a value, working out point costs for everything, we had to develop the mechanics with the game more. We had basic units with a rough stat line, we had some basic weapons (assault rifle, pistol, knife, sword) and now we needed to figure how modifiers and how units relate to things. To start we started with two forces consisting of a Lieutenant, 2 fireteams of 3 models for a total of 7 miniatures. We set up a table, deployed, and played without dice. We would play multiple games taking notes, playing out in a storyteller, almost rpg fashion. We would move units, declare intentions of what we were doing, shooting and discuss based on individual model placements, what a rough outcome would be. It wasn't meant to be exact or determine a winner or loser. We wanted to determine just what options or actions we would available for our units. Then we would randomize players again, retest the gauntlet. This took quite a bit as we discussed different things from destroying walls, climbing, peeking around corners, cover, mines, grenades, locking doors, opening doors, jumping through windows, etc. With each new test we would ask and answer several questions which would help fine tune what would eventually become available during activations. Some examples of the questions we would ask would be: Is there a situation where one model could have LoS and shoot, but the target couldn't have LoS with the shooter? If cautiously moving, would they have access to full movement range? If cautiously moving, could they peek around a corner to shoot one model only when there was a fireteam of three? If shooting an assault rifle in close quarters range, was it less effective? Does a unactivated model have access to more dice pool to return fire vs a model previously activated? Can you set traps on objectives? Do models have a 360 degree of line of fire or does it just have 180 or less? Can models choose to switch weapons or have access to different ammo types? What are the advantages of an active unit, fighting against a reactive unit? Does attack position effect the outcome, if a unit is forward facing, does attacking from the side factor in? Is flanking simply considered attacking from the side of another unit or does flanking only come involved if multiple units attacking one from different directions? What does suppressive fire do (lower dice pool, can't react, something else)? How is camouflage different than stealth? When a fireteam reacts, does everyone get to respond? Are fireteam actions/reactions grouped together or handled individually? How does one determine who dies when a fireteam is fired on? When we determined quick fashion who won encounters, it sometimes was as simple as more power vs less. In some cases it was easier. A unit with 0 armor, 1 hit point is more likely to die vs someone who has 0 armor and 2 hit points. The guy with 2hp is almost twice as effective. If he had 1 armor and 1 hit point vs a 0 armor, 2 hit points then he was fairly even. The unit with armor being able to negate damage part of the time, but not all the time. We spent another month on this part going back and forth. Finalize Initial Mechanics After all the testing we have a pretty good idea what each action can do. We also have a basic idea of what we want each action to entail or possibilities for units. That let's us start to finally create an initial point system to measure the strength of weapons, equipment, units and their relation to each other. We also take this opportunity to look at attributes again, are there any we want to remove, add or modify? Don't be afraid to experiment. One discussion that happened was 'lethality of modern/future weapons' vs defensive equipment like armor. In a future world of lasers, plasma, caseless ammo and varying ammo types, is armor effective. If you were going against lightly or medium armored infantry, aren't armor piercing rounds still lethal and aren't they just as lethal against no armor? For a time we did abstract armor saves, reducing a step, by removing them and having the contested roll determine survival. The contested roll basically covered who shot first, who hit who and if it was lethal enough to cause a wound. This abstraction worked out fine when we were only dealing with infantry. It wasn't until we started to add vehicle armor, power armor, mecha, and robots that this started to not make sense. Larger armored vehicles had increased survival rate, not so much because of armor but because of what it took to disable it. There was also the cyberized faction to consider as they are basically fully armored people, not just an armor outer shell. Armor as a value ended up being added back in. Game testing for this has been proceeding for months. Factions were essentially the same, some had access to better units than others. Each step in the process we added more, psionics, special weapon and support upgrades, command points for certain actions, and healing. Now we have been making changes to what factions have access too, adding in certain strengths and weaknesses to make them more unique, effecting the access to tactics and how they were utilized. With board games we go through a similar design process. Start with what we want to accomplish, create a guide, discuss the story and actions, create a necessary attribute/stat line. Rinse and repeat multiple times, polishing each part, until the vote comes back that it is near complete.
  9. Waiting on one batch of miniatures for one game and a board game prototype for another project. As such I am thinking of doing a Game Designers Blog, sort of starting with the beginning of the idea, concept art, costs for manufacturing and decision making through-out the process. Then sprinkle in some Kickstarter and Con pro's and con's while showing the artwork from concept to finish. Disclaimer: I am by far not an expert on the things I am posting so do not take my opinions and experiences as gospel. Your mileage may vary but I wanted to share the experience and decisions with the path we have taken. I hope they can be helpful and enjoyable to some people out there interested in a behind the scenes look. I apologize ahead of time if I ramble. I want to try to explain the process, testing, cost, reasoning for final decisions and share as much as I can about game design and creation. I’ve often seen companies make a decision and then customers wonder why a particular choice was made or didn’t quite make sense from a consumer point of view. I figured that this would be a great experience to not only communicate the process and steps we’ve taken but also hopefully providing some useful information to other designers and creators. About Me Casting Experience To Seek a Publisher or to Self Publish? The main reason to create a game is because we want to get it published, there are two main options to getting something out to people. You should ask yourself if you want to approach an existing, established publisher with your design or instead would like to “self-publish”. It is usually one of the first decisions a designer should be making as both methods have their pro’s and con’s but the decision could affect how you will design the game as well as the work to put into it. Getting Published Many game designers get their games published by an established publisher. The competition can be first as there are thousands of designers all competing for the attention of a handful of publishers which may produce games like your own. Not all publishers are actively accepting submissions. Participating as part of a “Publisher Dating” at a convention like GenCon or Origins is a good place to start. One of the main advantages of seeking a publisher is that you do not assume the financial risk, this is transferred to the publisher who you sell your design too. This also lets you basically accept a check and get back to what you may love, designing more games. You usually don’t have to worry about artwork (generic is good for demoing) or creating an intricate prototype. There are disadvantages to being published as well too. You essentially are signing terms to release your design to the publisher. That can mean your game may not be published in the theme you designed, they might completely redesign the concept and theme of it. You could have made an awesome game about clowns but they decide instead to retheme it about dragons and you really wanted to make a game about dragons. You may not agree with changes they make to the rules as well. It could also mean your game may not see the light of day. This usually isn’t done to be malicious but games do get shelved for many reasons. The priority or focus, the market could change so one project would be shelved while others get priority. When negotiating you always want to ensure that if after X amount of time something is published or released rights can return back to creator/designer. This is also a good idea just in case the company who did the game, for some reason, went bankrupt or disbanded and it doesn’t leave your game in limbo. An example of this is Snow Tails, a board game done by Renegade Game Studio. It was originally out of print for a few years, rights to the game reverted back to the game designer. They were then approached by Renegade who wanted to republish the game. After some changes, updates and now the game is re-released. Having a game publisher pick up your game is a great option for many. They don’t have to spend time manufacturing, selling, setting up distribution, shipping, acquiring artwork, writing rules and more. It means you can focus more on making more games, instead of spending all the time just working on one or two. It however isn’t always the best option. Self Publish If you don’t want to release the rights to your game and you want more of a creative role in the process there is always self-publishing. This route ends up being the most expensive route of the process as you have to rely on yourself and your network vs an established network. You need to look at how much time you will invest in it as well as money. Do you need artwork or a graphic designer? Are you getting 3d work or sculpting done? Are you doing a website, who is doing the design? Where are you getting testers? What about distribution, advertising and promotion? After you have worked out your costs what about retailer pricing? These are all things you need to consider and more. Self Publishing ends up being more about business than game design to some degree. It does take a good business mind to be successful when going down this path. Most of the negotiating and connections are done by yourself though. For example when looking at distribution and someone asks you what your “retailer terms” are, they are looking for your wholesale price. You need to be aware of all the costs in your game from the plastic bags to the dice and how much it cost to produce. A retail buyer will want to know the wholesale price, how many they have to order to get that price, shipping cost, do they pay immediately or in 30 days (net 30). Keep in mind most retailers will want to double the wholesale price to make a profit on the game. Other things to look at game contents, box size as those can change how or what a retailer will order. Be aware of retail prices of games, their contents and how you plan to ultimately stack up to them. View full article
  10. Game Design Blog

    Disclaimer: I am by far not an expert on the things I am posting so do not take my opinions and experiences as gospel. Your mileage may vary but I wanted to share the experience and decisions with the path we have taken. I hope they can be helpful and enjoyable to some people out there interested in a behind the scenes look. I apologize ahead of time if I ramble. I want to try to explain the process, testing, cost, reasoning for final decisions and share as much as I can about game design and creation. I’ve often seen companies make a decision and then customers wonder why a particular choice was made or didn’t quite make sense from a consumer point of view. I figured that this would be a great experience to not only communicate the process and steps we’ve taken but also hopefully providing some useful information to other designers and creators. About Me Casting Experience To Seek a Publisher or to Self Publish? The main reason to create a game is because we want to get it published, there are two main options to getting something out to people. You should ask yourself if you want to approach an existing, established publisher with your design or instead would like to “self-publish”. It is usually one of the first decisions a designer should be making as both methods have their pro’s and con’s but the decision could affect how you will design the game as well as the work to put into it. Getting Published Many game designers get their games published by an established publisher. The competition can be first as there are thousands of designers all competing for the attention of a handful of publishers which may produce games like your own. Not all publishers are actively accepting submissions. Participating as part of a “Publisher Dating” at a convention like GenCon or Origins is a good place to start. One of the main advantages of seeking a publisher is that you do not assume the financial risk, this is transferred to the publisher who you sell your design too. This also lets you basically accept a check and get back to what you may love, designing more games. You usually don’t have to worry about artwork (generic is good for demoing) or creating an intricate prototype. There are disadvantages to being published as well too. You essentially are signing terms to release your design to the publisher. That can mean your game may not be published in the theme you designed, they might completely redesign the concept and theme of it. You could have made an awesome game about clowns but they decide instead to retheme it about dragons and you really wanted to make a game about dragons. You may not agree with changes they make to the rules as well. It could also mean your game may not see the light of day. This usually isn’t done to be malicious but games do get shelved for many reasons. The priority or focus, the market could change so one project would be shelved while others get priority. When negotiating you always want to ensure that if after X amount of time something is published or released rights can return back to creator/designer. This is also a good idea just in case the company who did the game, for some reason, went bankrupt or disbanded and it doesn’t leave your game in limbo. An example of this is Snow Tails, a board game done by Renegade Game Studio. It was originally out of print for a few years, rights to the game reverted back to the game designer. They were then approached by Renegade who wanted to republish the game. After some changes, updates and now the game is re-released. Having a game publisher pick up your game is a great option for many. They don’t have to spend time manufacturing, selling, setting up distribution, shipping, acquiring artwork, writing rules and more. It means you can focus more on making more games, instead of spending all the time just working on one or two. It however isn’t always the best option. Self Publish If you don’t want to release the rights to your game and you want more of a creative role in the process there is always self-publishing. This route ends up being the most expensive route of the process as you have to rely on yourself and your network vs an established network. You need to look at how much time you will invest in it as well as money. Do you need artwork or a graphic designer? Are you getting 3d work or sculpting done? Are you doing a website, who is doing the design? Where are you getting testers? What about distribution, advertising and promotion? After you have worked out your costs what about retailer pricing? These are all things you need to consider and more. Self Publishing ends up being more about business than game design to some degree. It does take a good business mind to be successful when going down this path. Most of the negotiating and connections are done by yourself though. For example when looking at distribution and someone asks you what your “retailer terms” are, they are looking for your wholesale price. You need to be aware of all the costs in your game from the plastic bags to the dice and how much it cost to produce. A retail buyer will want to know the wholesale price, how many they have to order to get that price, shipping cost, do they pay immediately or in 30 days (net 30). Keep in mind most retailers will want to double the wholesale price to make a profit on the game. Other things to look at game contents, box size as those can change how or what a retailer will order. Be aware of retail prices of games, their contents and how you plan to ultimately stack up to them.