Game diary

6 05 2014

Today I played Cat God vs Sun King 2 for the kongpanion. It reminds me of an old game I used to play as a kid where you have to try and destroy submarines by dropping bombs where you think they will be in a few seconds time (depthcharge?). You play as a cat god sat atop a scaffold, worker slaves and other mobs are building up the tower towards you, each level the complete allows them to get closer to you and attack you. You control a falling fire ball that periodically drops and kills any workers underneath it. There are upgrades and scarabs to target in order to get bonuses.


Game diary

5 05 2014

Today I played Alan Hazeldean’s Ludum Dare 29 entry You’re Pulleying My leg. A brain melting puzzle game – the first puzzle being figuring out what the mechanic is.

Game Diary

2 05 2014

Today I played valthirian-arc-2 for the kongpanion pet of a sparrow.

I played a little bit of Project Isla, it looks like it is a Myst style exploring game.

Fellow weapon7 player, about which I’ll write more later, told me that he hadn’t made any games. This turned out to be a lie of humbleness – I played his oldest Ludum Dare game  You Are Me Now. An action-puzzler platformer of uncovering connections. Interesting ‘attack’ of projecting yourself into the body of an enemy mob in order to switch places with them.


Scrabble Rush

22 04 2014
Photo (c) Laura Hall

Photo (c) Laura Hall

I discovered quite by accident, that a game I designed when I worked at Hasbro, had been produced.

It has been slung under the ‘Words with Friends’ partnership and seems to have only been released in Canada.
(note the product description appears to be for a toy truck rather than any kind of game)
erronous product description
Nonetheless, I was delighted to find out that one of the games I designed there actually made it out into the world.

So I thought I’d share the design process as best as I can remember it.

March 2011-ish Ross of Gambling Lambs fame, was staying with us for Game Camp and we played a lot of games including Bananagrams.
Bananagrams is a great game, but I always feel slightly dissatisfied at the conclusion. The ‘winner’ is the last person to take a tile from the communal pile, but they don’t have to have been the person that did the most work in the game. Another oddity of the game, is that it feels communal but it’s really just several single player games happening at the same time. Unless you take pains to review and talk through everyone’s board at the end of the game, the words you are proud of creating go ignored.

Ross and I tried modding the game to make it actually communal by building a single massive board. This co-op version was a lot slower paced as we deliberated our words, and felt more like solving an abstract jigsaw puzzle.

Co-op Bananagrams

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At some point I was drafted onto the Scrabble brand team to make a version that was more appealing to teens. A perfect opportunity to ‘fix’ the niggling faults I found with Bananagrams.

My department manager was Katharine Chapman, who should be famous for designing Monopoly Deal A CARD GAME THAT MAKES MONOPOLY ACTUALLY FUN, but she isn’t, because big companies have a policy of obscuring their designers.

We worked together to bring this idea to life, I forget who did what exactly, but given that Katharine’s superpower was making things more fun, I suspect it was her idea to make the game competitive instead of co-op.

The problem that I hypothesised Bananagrams hit against, was that they legally could not have numbers on their tiles. Being able to score the words made would take away the arbitrariness of who wins the game.
Scrabble being the patent holder for numbered tiles are allowed and so we could try out this win state.

The initial test game that we pitched to the marketing departments was a three player game. The idea being that additional coloured tile sets could be added to the range to make it for more and more players. The added bonus of this being – that any Scrabble tile inclined Etsy-makers would jump at the chance to add new colours to their crafting palettes.

We shot a teaser video of myself, Katharine and Victoria the head of copywriting, playing off against each other making the gameplay look as raucous and fast-paced as we could.
(internal presentations to upper management were the most lavish I’ve ever come across, for the presentation Katharine was flown out from London to Providence, Rhode Island with mock-up models, hand-outs, videos, promotional T-shirts and collectible stickers. All to try and save one concept from failing the internal review)

But fail it did, and the idea got shelved; stored in the database affectionately known as the graveyard.
In the following months, upper management restructured and the boardgame design studio got drastically downsized, my department was cut and I had to leave the simultaneously best and worst job I’ve ever had.

Whoever dug the game up from the graveyard added some extra rules which are optional. One being that you can sacrifice a tile and shove it under a word you have made to make it a double word score and two to make a triple word score. I’m not such a fan of this rule, so I’m glad it’s optional.

March 2014, The retail version of the game finally came in the post and I forced friends and family to play it.

The first thing of note is that it has a really nice carry case and the tiles are really satisfying to touch. Having watched it played within various sized groups I can say that it is far more fun to play in teams than single player head to head.

Each team picks a colour and turns all their tiles upside down and draws nine to make up their hand. As they spend their tiles they constantly draw up to nine. The game stops when one team uses up all their pool of tiles. Whoever has the highest score wins (coolest word wins bragging points).
You can move your own tiles around in the grid as much as you like so long as you don’t leave any words as fragments or cut any words off from the grid.

Whichever team can come up with the longest word from their hand, gets to start the grid off. Thats the end of turn orders, everything else is now a free-for all scramble to be as quick as possible.

And then there’s the fun of making up silly phrases and quotes out of the tiles after the game’s over.


Best part is the one one and only customer review on Amazon. Oh Dear.

Game diary

22 04 2014

This weekend I playtested Anchorage. It’s a game built from your email history, you play a little boat on a river that draws energy from being near other boats. The river draws a path through time, as you sail along you travel through your history. Friendly boats appear based on conversations you had with certain people, they’ll stay with you for as long as you stayed in touch, then disappear in your wake as you outstrip them. I playtested the game live via skype in front of Gabe, the creator of the game. I thought that it might be a bit intimidating to expose my personal relationships, but it turned out to be fun to tell him who the people on the boats were, how and if they related to each other, and what their friendship meant to me. 




Game diary

19 04 2014

I enjoyed Threes as a well-honed minimalist puzzle game, like Drop7, SpellTower and TripleTown it feels like a ‘pure’ puzzle. The 2048 clone furore made sense to me – in Threes you can feel the design that went into it, the clones ignored design choices made for good reasons and were lesser because of it. However there is something else to the 2048 – and indeed Flappy Bird – story. The clones of these games have become memetic, and that in itself is impressive. People are treating the dynamics as a snowclone, overlaying the familiar with something that makes it their own message.

I liked a couple that also tweaked the game mechanics such as Numberwang and but I really love this star building version that uses (I assume) real chemistry to ‘bond’ the numbers/elements you make. You win once you get to Fe[26]

I revisited this interactive fiction game/toy made by the guy made Cookie Clicker called Nested. I was reminded of it by how Porpentine’s ‘Everything you swallow will one day come up like a stone‘ sounds like it played (the game only existed for 24 hours and I missed it)

Cookie Clicker has also had an update since I looked at it last, Valentines is over and there are new achievements & upgrades plus a UI upgrade.

I also played the start of Fishy Waters – an homage to Ridiculous Fishing reimagined as top-down exploring game with a different story (although one character wears a Ridiculous Fishing T-Shirt in the opening cut scene ^_^) 

Game diary

16 04 2014

Today I played Lab of the Dead in order to get this week’s kongpanion. It’s a sort of zombie studying tamogotchi with a zombie apocalypse themed story. 

Also Night Sky on iOS, It’s a nice touch screen game of rolling a ball through atmospheric platform levels. Lots of looping round ramps and switching the gravity around.