Category Archives: Blog

Metatopia 2016 is just around the corner…

This now-five-year-old convention is the one I look forward to the most in a given year. All of Double Exposure’s conventions are great, but only one is specifically about to delivering excellent content tailored around designing games, for people designing games. And it’s open-armed, welcoming, and unbelievably full of interesting information from an incredible number of amazing people.

The games I’ve taken there have consistently gotten immensely valuable feedback. I’ve met phenomenal people and solidified casual acquaintances into fast friends. I’ve also been able to make a difference in people’s understanding of running their individual game businesses. And it’s the last part that I think is one of the most important to me. I thrive on helping people learn and succeed. And Metatopia is the single best place to do that in tabletop games.

I cannot recommend this convention enough. I really can’t.

I am going to be running four playtest slots of a game under the codename “Project CS,” which is a pickup-and-deliver deckbuilder. There are a few bits and pieces that need ironing, so if you’re going, I hope you’ll help me find and file off the remaining burrs. The game is also on the schedule for a for a formal announcement next week, so keep an eye on my twitter account (@dicefoodlodging) for more info!

Here’s the timetable of events that I’m an official part of, and I have lots of things I want to attend as well. Come and find me!

Friday
9-11am – Project CS
1-2pm – D017: Defining Success – Establishing Personal Metrics
2-4pm – Project CS

Saturday
1-2pm – D059: Theme: What is it Good For?
2-3pm – D065: Where I Stole My Best Idea
8-10pm – Project CS

Sunday
3-5pm – Project CS

Bonus: Brie Sheldon has written up some great tips on being a good playtester, just in time for Metatopia!
http://www.briecs.com/2016/10/convention-playtester-tips.html

Always Be Prototyping

Il meglio è nemico del bene
–Orlando Pescetti

Proto, from the Greek protos “first.” Type, also from the Greek typos which had a great many useful meanings, most of which had to do with a physical impression of something, like a dent or other struck-mark. Our modern understanding of a prototype, even a digital one, is consistent with its etymology: a first impression.

In digital games, the earliest prototypes are “paper prototypes;” constructed in this easy-to-iterate medium. These come before the rough digital incarnations known as “wireframes.” Eventually, “High-fidelity” prototypes are the penultimate step in the process in the creative construction. The stages, if not the language, are consistent with regards to the paper games we make.

I often refer to the paper prototype stage as an “alpha.” At this point, I’ve created a proof-of-concept, useful for testing assumptions, gameplay techniques, and a rough gauge of the complexity of my idea. Much like their digital counterparts, these are frequently hand-drawn and contain the least amount of information. There’s no point in making them any nicer since they are expected to change, usually by crossing out old information and scrawling in new.

Wireframes translate handily to the “beta” phase of game development. There might be placeholder art, computer-generated templates, and some early ergonomic affordances. We’re starting to fine-tune the mechanics of gameplay here, perhaps also trying to conceptualize the visual design, but that remains secondary as we are still trying to work out any functional flaws within the game system. It’s important not to skip this stage and move into high-fidelity prototypes too quickly as it often gives the impression that the game is more finished than is true.

High-fidelity prototypes represent mockups of the final product, before entering production. The visual treatments are considered most strongly here as well as the ergonomics. These are the showpieces that represent your product-to-be. They should be functional, appealing and coherent.

Each of these three phases often takes several iterations to complete, occasionally jumping backward from one to another as you discover things to address. They are all still prototypes—_first impressions_—and constantly, iteratively improving them, and validating your assumptions is the path to a final product.

And when is it a final product as opposed to a prototype? That’s the million-dollar question. There is no formula to tell you unequivocally when the development process is complete. But there are guidelines, deadlines, and other such process-based valuations that will help you make an informed decision.

In commercial design, deadlines are usually a defining factor. In a project scheduled for three months, you must have a final prototype at the end of that period. Other guidelines might have to do with performance, such as playtesting reports and an apparent lack of flaws. (The Minimum Viable Product model is one such metric that explicitly sets a release well before the design is in a final state.)

And now, having reached my intended word count, this article is concluded.

Gaming and Gastronomy

Last week, we were asked to demo OmegaZone out at an event co-sponsored by our friends at Twenty Sided Store. We got to show off the Instant Setting to lots of folks who were pleased to get a quick stab at something new before running around to all the other great things to see. Dwarven Forge was there, showing off their 3D dungeon tiles, there was a costume/photo booth, more games to play and of course, Roberta’s Pizza

Dressing up and Dungeoncrawling
Dressing up and Dungeoncrawling

Twenty Sided Store is also fully restocked on Brooklyn Indie Games’ products. If you’re in need of an OmegaZone deck, Backstory Cards, or the latest Ghost Pirates expansion, you’ll find it there.

Freshly stocked
Freshly stocked

Dexcon 2015

Double Exposure’s flagship convention was held this last weekend, and the wonderful folks running the convention did a wonderful job as usual. I’ve been playing a lot of catch up with getting myself organized for conventions recently, thankfully that hasn’t been too much of a problem so far.

I helped run a long con game of World Wide Wrestling RPG which went off incredibly. This is one of my favorite games of recent history and to be part of an incredible three-session, multi-promotion, game was a phenomenal experience! All the players brought immense creativity and energy to the three sessions, and in the end we crowned a unified wrestling champion across all three promotions in a 8-player Regal Wrangle. 

 
I also ran two demo sessions of Ghost Pirates, teaching the game to six new players. One player had a great, thoughtful reaction and suggested a few new treasure cards — I’ve been collecting ideas for a treasure expansion for a while now, and this completes a set of six. This may get bumped to near top of the production queue for the year, since it’s a really simple thing to make happen.

 

All in all, a great experience and this only represents a tiny fraction of what was available to play and do. If you’re ever in the area over the summer, I definitely recommend it. 

Dexcon, by Double Exposure

 

Falling: the Adventure

I’ve been running the Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat adventure sequence with my local shop for the last few months and this week I got to run the most amazing table…

A little backstory and context: we’re running the campaign as a huge group adventure for those appropriate parts, and break out to individual tables for most regular adventures. We’re on the final episode of the storyline, where the party assaults the final stronghold. Since we’re doing it as a 40+ PC group of 15th level characters, our DM team decided to split the group into tables based on the kind of assault they wanted to plan. I got a table of players who had decided to HALO jump into the caldera of the volcano.

So that’s what we did.

After a little bit of exposition, and goofiness, the party strapped themselves to the belly of a friendly metallic dragon and flew to altitude. At this point we had enough of a diversion set up that there were maybe 20 dragons flying guard duty above the 1 sq. mile mouth of the volcano. Then they jumped.

So here’s what I did. I put a d12 down on the table and said, okay. Here’s the countdown to when you need to chug your feather fall potion in order to land safely. I’m going to roll a d6 on each of your turns and if it comes up your number (I had 6 players) you’re about to hit a dragon on the way down. You can make an appropriate athletics/acrobatics/dexterity save (DC12) to avoid the dragon, but each round you’re falling incurs a penalty equal to the number showing on the d12 (This is simply a repurposing the 13th Age escalation die). Starting at round 9, I rolled 2d6 to see if their number came up.

All but one player tried hard to stick to the stealth aspect of the mission, doing their best to avoid mid-air combat. He took a hardline on RP’ing his (drunken oafish) character despite the circumstance; forcing himself into troublesome situations and throwing himself at the consequences. While a lot of my table thought that this polluted the stealth aspect of the mission, it also added a whole lot of flavor and really vital interest to what might have otherwise been a really dull exercise in dice rolling.

This scene ended up being approximately half of our allotted play time. It was incredibly tense as players traded inspiration dice, miscellaneous abilities, and hoped like hell to hit the ever-increasing DC numbers. And the players couldn’t stop talking about the session afterwards; one even cited it as one of his two best sessions of the season. In an adventure where they fell for about an hour and a half.