Tag Archives: NaGaDeMon

#NaGaDeMon: The End


And so it comes to its conclusion. Around the world, hundreds of book publishing companies quiver in fear as they await the onslaught of manuscripts from wannabe authors. Bathroom sinks across the country are strewn with the remains of  moustaches as top lips see the sun for the first time in weeks. And on tables everywhere (well, perhaps not everywhere) people who would never normally have dreamed of creating their own game now have something that’s hopefully playable sitting before them. NaGaDeMon 2011 is now finished. So how was it for you?

I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy with my effort, Pocket Universe. It’s been quite the challenge coming up with a game from nothing, getting it built and – probably most important – making sure that it works. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, have a look at the Sprocket Games page here on the site – it’s really rather good. It’s not just me saying that, however! It was really important for me to get as many people as possible to try it so I was very pleased when so many people came forward to playtest it, especially those who weren’t afraid to let me know exactly what they thought of it…

So, the game works and – according to people who’ve played it – it’s actually fun! So what happens next? Well, there’s a couple of options. First, it can stay on the shelf (or here on the site, anyway). Second, I can try to get it published which is easier said than done – however, it’s certainly a possibility. One of the great things about doing Little Metal Dog is that I get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry and several have expressed interest in checking it out, so it’s just a matter of seeing what happens with that. Should nothing come from it, the final step is to self-publish – a big step, admittedly, but one that I’d be more than willing to take.

Before that happens though, I need to decide whether or not Pocket Universe is truly complete. It’s certainly finished, but do I want to add more to it? There’s a couple of things that could be put into the game that would improve it further – perhaps giving the players the option of different ships that will bestow different powers, cargo capacities, that kind of thing?  While it won’t break the game – I’m happy with how it is – it could be interesting to give gamers more things to do in the Pocket Universe. It’s something to think about anyway. For now though, I’m calling my NaGaDeMon adventure a success. Roll on next November, hey?

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#NaGaDeMon Update: Listen Up

The #NaGaDeMon truck rolls on, creative juices continue to boil away and my wee game gets closer to being finished. If you’re unaware of what NaGaDeMon is, here’s the deal: much like NaNoWriMo where people are given the challenge to write a 50,000 word first draft of novel from scratch, this is a month long task through the month of November where those who take part make a brand new game from the ground up. From the original concept to a finished working game in thirty days – and as I’ve found out, this is not as easy as you may think.

In my last update, I talked about the idea I had for a space exploration game involving a stack of double-sided hex tiles and a big ol’ pile of small plastic cylinders. The name of the game is Pocket Universe and players travel around the tiles, revealing more and more of the board as they move about, collecting resources and either stashing them back at their base for points or using them to perform special actions. Since that last post I’ve played it a lot and – in all honesty – reckon that it’s a pretty good game. Of course, I would say that. I’ve designed it. I’m proud of it. The trick is to get other people to try it out and let me know what they think.

Anyone who does anything vaguely creative has to learn one thing very early: how to accept criticism graciously and not let it upset you. Whether it’s writing, making music, painting or – yes – making games, you’ve got to be willing to listen to what people say about your creation. If they like it, great! It’s always lovely to hear them praise what you have made. What you also need to do is give as much time to those who have negative things to say about what you’ve made and, more importantly, act upon their advice. It’s fine to ignore the ones who just say “that’s crap” and offer nothing else, but if people have ideas? Listen.

You don’t have to act on everything but you should always consider what they have to say.

I actually managed to get the files for Pocket Universe out to ten different people and groups to playtest it for me, and the feedback has been great. Yes, it’s been splendid hearing from folks who’ve played it and enjoyed it… but what I’ve found even better is the reports I’ve had back from those who’ve played it and have suggested what can be done to improve the game experience. I want to make the best thing I can, a fun game that offers a level of challenge to all who play it. In particular, I’ve had some great assistance from Newcastle Gamers’ Gareth and Robert who frankly ripped my rules to shreds – but you know… that’s exactly what needs to happen.

Gareth printed out *all* the tiles on thick card stock. It looks... pretty awesome.

In my last update I mentioned that I’m not fantastic at rules. I need them to be looked at so I can go back and fix things, sew up holes, clarify points that need clearing up – nothing is perfect first time around. The game is still essentially the same but the rules are now so much better – streamlined, simplified and (best of all) not fussy. I still don’t think that they’re finished but it’s certainly getting much closer.

What I’ve also done is add a new element to the game, again under suggestion from playtesters. Each player now has a special ability that affects everyone else, such as taking over a wormhole so they can collect a toll from other users or upgrading the resources on a single planet. It just adds an extra level to the game that can give players an advantage – assuming that it’s used at the correct time. I’m still ironing out the kinks with it (especially with how they’re allocated at the start of play) but there’s still time. There’s still ten days left of #NaGaDeMon. I can do this.

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#NaGaDeMon Update: Cut It Out!

So, National Game Design Month (also known as NaGaDeMon) trundles on and the ideas keep on ticking over. If you have no clue what I’m talking about you can get a heads-up here but the shortform version is this; design a brand new game of whatever stripe you please in the month of November, bringing it from concept to a fully playable version in those thirty days. We’re not looking for perfection, just something that works and you’ll happily play with someone else. I’ve heard tales of anything from 2-player dice games to full on RPG systems being created; my idea is kind of pitched halfway between that.

I wanted to create a simple tile based game that is playable in about 30-40 minutes for up to four players. After scribbling a load of notes down for the first couple of days, ideas began to coagulate and come together as I kicked off with some basic concepts of theme and how the game would work. Realising that it would be pretty boring if it was just moving around a board, I came up with a scoring system that seemed pretty solid. Still, the game wasn’t entirely there, but I wanted to get something solid down and began writing the rules.

I have to admit, I’m not the best at rules creation, but this time around seemed to go reasonably well. Even now (after a couple of revisions) I’m not entirely happy with them, but I have faith that it’ll come together. Actually, getting the rules on paper – or on screen at least – helped a lot in getting my mind straight on how things should work. After completing the first draft, I now knew how the engine of the game would run. Players control a small spaceship that flies around a universe made up of two-sided hex tiles, seeking four types of resources that are worth different amounts of points (5, 3, 2 and 1) dependent on their rarity. A set amount of actions per turn let the players move around the board, hopefully revealing new planets for them to raid for resources that they stash back at their bases. Whoever has the highest points total at the end wins (yes, I know, very traditional).

So far, so… OK. It wasn’t “good” yet. I felt there was something missing. I wanted an element of conflict in there – it’s no fun having a bunch of players flying around all happy and lovely, sharing space in a smiley fashion. I needed a backstory, so I came up with a little tale of four races who were looking to keep ahead of the others. Initially working together, they came up with a device called the Pocket Universe Generation System (I’d been looking at videos of boggly-eyed Pugs being odd – amazing where inspiration comes from) and finally I had a name for my little creation: Pocket Universe.

The conflict element came from players being able to spend their collected resources on attacking each other (as well as a bunch of other special abilities that encourage exploration). I still think there’s work to do on this, but a few playtests in and this system seems to work. Sure, people can choose to just race about and collect resources for points, but there’s much more fun in going around shooting people in the butt.

Yes, there has been playtesting. In fact, I’m pretty happy with the first version of the game I’ve made up – a couple of evenings of some highly amateurish Photoshop work and lots of cutting and sticking saw the creation of a set of sixty double-sided tiles and some player boards…

Another fast-paced Saturday evening. The glamorous life of game design!

(Note to future self: Always make sure you have enough glue. Running out with 20 tiles left to make is VERY annoying.)

The following day, I had a full set completed. For resources tokens I raided an old Risk set, grabbing four different colours to represent the precious elements of the Pocket Universe. For playing pieces, four different coloured houses from a Monopoly Junior box will have to do for now until I can find some spaceships in the correct colours!

After playing a few games and seeing what worked (and more importantly, what didn’t) I did another rules revision and asked on Twitter for external playtesters. At this moment I have ten different people and groups signed up, many of whom are providing some excellent feedback – rules are still being replaced and rewritten, the main thing being clarifications of the more vague areas. I honestly think I’m on to something with this game and am thoroughly enjoying the creative process – with a few tweaks I reckon Pocket Universe could be a winner.

The current version of the game, set up for four players to go explorin'.

For now though, it’s more playing, more fixing any issues that come up and more making it perfect. I’ve got a few more ideas of things to bring in to the game – I’d love to bring the four races in there a bit more, for example – but there’s still three weeks of #NaGaDeMon to go. Who knows what will happen between now and the end?

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Creative Juices: Time for #NaGaDeMon

 

Flicking about on Twitter today, it seems like the whole internet is throwing itself into one of two things. People are either going mental for Movember, the practice of growing moustaches for charity (good work to all involved) or going headlong into NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about NaNoWriMo, I’d suggest you head over to http://www.nanowrimo.org and do some investigating. It’s basically a month long spurt to create a piece of writing of at least 50,000 words. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be that good – the challenge is to actually show yourself that you’ve got the beans to stick with the project and complete it.

I admit that I actually tried NaNoWriMo last year. I was religiously tapping away on my keyboard every day, working away not on a novel but a new RPG system that I’d called Flow. I was doing alright actually, about 15,000 words down… when suddenly my desktop computer (nicknamed The Beast) died, never to power up again. I didn’t have the heart to go on, all those words lost.

Twelve months on and I still don’t see myself writing that many words. However, I do have another project in mind – #NaGaDeMon

I stumbled across it at the Peril Planet site and I am totally up for it. At last, a project that I could feasibly finish! Most gamers will know what a Naga Demon is (especially if they’ve dabbled in D&D or World of Warcraft) but this one is a little different. Standing for National Game Design Month, you have one simple aim: design, build and play a brand new game from scratch in the space of thirty days.

Here are the full rules as laid down by Peril Planet:

Create the game in November. It can be based on ideas, notes and other resources, but the putting together of the game should occur during the month.

Finish the game in November. Complete the game! A complete game should have everything required to play – no hand-waving (“Oh, I’ll make those cards later”) allowed! In the case of an RPG this means rules for character generation, resolving conflict, experience, and setting. Boardgames will need the actual board, pawns, cards and/or other objects gathered or created. Wargames will require rules for all the pertinent action and probably a couple of army / force lists (and you will obviously need some armies to battle with when it comes time to play the game!).

Play the game in November. It doesn’t matter whether you play your game in the garage with your mates, on line with a stranger, with your Nan over a cup of tea, or by yourself in the attic – just play it at least once!

Talk about your experience. Either during November or after, talk about what you did; share the game with others; blog about the process; tell everyone how awesome you did or how epic your failure was. What’s the point of creating your own game if you don’t tell everyone about it!

(Cheers to the folks over there for laying them out so eloquently.)

So that’s it. I’ll be taking part in #NaGaDeMon and coming up with a brand new game in one month and document my adventures each week. It could be fun, it could be terrible, but at least it’ll be vaguely interesting (I hope). If you’re up for joining in the fun as well, post below; I think we’ll need all the help we can get…

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