Archive for the ‘Game Night’ tag
Really great post from game designer Dave Sirlin on the Olympic badminton controversy, and how the rules that led to this are really, really flawed:
Game Night last night was a fun affair, with a mix of “quick” games (I’ll say why that’s ironic in a moment). We played a five-handed game of 7 Wonders, and I finally won. Going technology (or whatever the green cards are) proved to be key, due to the cards-of-the-same-type-squared scoring formula. I had 25 points for 4 of the same type (16 points), plus 7 for one of each type, plus 2 for the other two cards. And that let me win by a lot.
Then we played Cards Against Humanity, which again is a brilliant game. Some folks remixed Apples to Apples, making a much more fun version with a whole bunch of really inappropriate cards. Sure, you can’t play it with kids (well, you shouldn’t), and the designers and writers seem to have an odd obsession with Glen Beck. But making a pseudo-haiku with cards like “fiery poops” and “Robert Downey, Jr.” really fulfills my innate immaturity. Jordan won that game by a lot, doing a great job of adapting his awful/hilarious answers to the person judging each round.
And we finished the night out playing Munchkin Booty. This was the second game of Munchkin that we played that took over two hours to finish. While it’s still fun, Munchkin tends to get exhausting when it drags on this long. We had a couple people drop out of the game due to getting killed/reset. And a lot of folks hung out at 9/10 levels for a really long time. Somehow, I eventually managed to win, due to some major buffs. And despite losing the three ships I’d acquired in my role as a Level 8+ Navy dude.
We’d love to find more quick games. Most of the stuff we have that we really like takes well over two hours to play (or requires an exact number of people). We usually wind up playing a Munchkin set or 7 Wonders or Small World. And while those are all good games, some more variety would be nice.
I’m making a commitment to updating this blog more often. We’re going to aim for 2x a week getting posts up.
I went up to Casual Connect last week for some meetings. While I didn’t get to attend much of the conference, the general air was interesting. At each conference I go to, you can pick up an overall feel for the new hotness. GDC a couple of years ago, for example, everyone was bullish on social gaming on Facebook. Loads of traditional PC and console game developers were getting into the space. Inside Social Games last year, one of the buzzwords was HTML5 gaming.
At this year’s Casual Connect, there seemed to be two themes. One, people were bullish on mobile and cooling a bit on Facebook as a platform. That’s not surprising — even Facebook game giant Zynga has had some difficulty lately on Facebook (difficulty being a relative term, they’re still the largest and most profitable social game company, period), and while there are some big publishers on mobile, no single entity dominates the way that Zynga has on Facebook.
Two, social gambling is the new big trend. There’s been talk for a while about Facebook pushing to legalize online gambling so it can grow its business by providing the platform for people to play poker and casino games together. It would be a smart move for Facebook, along the same lines as providing platforms for social games and payments. Having worked at World Poker Tour for a while, I know first-hand that the online gambling market is gigantic and that players monetize far better than even hardcore MMO players.
It’s a very hard business, however, one that’s dominated on the one hand by online gaming providers and by traditional brick-and-mortar casinos on the other. IGT and Harrah’s have both gotten into the social/online gaming space recently through acquisitions of social game companies. And Zynga’s made a big push with bingo, Slingo, their poker games, etc.
While I’m sure Zynga will do well in the space because of their size, ability to attract top talent, and marketing expertise, there are some challenges that people are probably not aware of.
Firstly, it’s a different audience than almost all social games. At WPT, we operated real-money gaming overseas, free games in the states, and a subscription gaming product in the US and Canada. Those are three different audiences. My mom may play Zynga Poker, but she’s never going to risk $500 playing no-limit sit-n-gos. And a hardcore gambler who likes to multi-table doesn’t care about playing with his social graph or having tons of stars shooting out every time he wins a hand.
There are also major regulatory issues and questions of fairness. Random number generators are licensed and inspected; you have to have certain cash reserves on hand for payouts; and even major online gaming companies have suffered from cheating scandals. It requires a degree of watchfulness and the ability to react quickly that other games do not. Think about the cheating and scamming that goes on in games like World of Warcraft, or others where you can’t officially take money out of the system. Now apply that to a game where you can literally win hundreds of thousands of dollars from other players. Flash clients are notoriously easy to hack.
A lot of the success of online poker/gambling sites has to do with building great affiliate programs and the type of offers you give to players. It’s not uncommon to see a CPA of $350 plus a portion of the player’s rake (for poker) or losses (for table games/slots). That’s because a player who deposits is worth thousands of dollars. And smart players shop various sites for matching deposit bonuses and other freebies, maximizing what they can get for free.
Finally, providers on Facebook and mobile will have to make sure their games are responsive. Rocketfrog is a cool game, but it’s very buggy and takes a long time to play a tournament. If I had real money on the line, I would never play there.
/end of gambling diatribe
We recently had a celebratory team-building event (because we finished up v1.0 of our next game). We went to go-karting at Racer’s Edge in Burbank, where they have electric karts that go up to 45 miles per hour (which is insanely fast on a small indoor track). Abe won both races.
Then we bowled. None of us are great bowlers. Although I did get the high score with 153 on the second game.
Stay tuned for news on what the new game is and where you can play it soon.
We’ve been playing a lot of 7 Wonders recently. It’s a fun competitive empire building game with a lot of options for win strategies — you can amass resources, build up an army (that you get points for having a bigger army each round than your opponent on either side), build wonders, collect money to trade for victory points, etc. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Race for the Galaxy, but with some more bits. And I’m pretty horrible at it, unlike RftG But it’s a great game, and I highly recommend it.
We’re trying to keep this blog updated. Generally failing in any reasonable sense of the word “udpated,” but we are trying
We had a small game night last night, just me, Sean, and Jordan, our new(ish) QA guy. We opted to try out Fiasco, a “storytelling game,” I purchased a digital download of last week. Fiasco aims to replicate a kind of loose, short-session Dungeons & Dragons, only with far less rules and no Dungeon Master. Drawing from small-time caper films where something goes horribly wrong (BLOOD SIMPLE, A SIMPLE PLAN, THE KILLING, FARGO, etc.), players take on various roles, have relationships with one another, and then most of us try to do something stupid, with the end result being catastrophe. The goal being to simulate in about two hours one of those caper films. Our first play session went reasonably well. We chose an Old West scenario, with Sean playing a grizzled ranch hand (Billy Bahb) and partner to Jordan’s ranch hand (Skeeter Montana). Years ago, a drunk Billy Bahb tried to convince Skeeter to purchase his railroad pushcart and goaded him into taking it down to the haunted mine, where Skeeter found old pirate gold (no idea why there were pirates in the Old West, but hell, it’s our first time playing). Back to the present of our story, and Billy tries to convince his no-good stepson Bobby Bahb (me!), a janitor at the hotel Skeeter owns with part of his gold proceeds to rob the hotel safe and get the gold back that should be rightfully his. Bobby sleeps with Skeeter’s wife after nailing him into the outhouse. Billy Bahb tries to (unsuccessfully) burn the outhouse down with Skeeter in it (Skeeter rocks the outhouse over on top of Billy Bahb). Billy Bahb’s wife, Dolly, tells him she slept with someone else, setting off a drunken rampage where he beats Dolly.
Billy Bahb asks for Bobby’s help again, with Bobby agreeing. Skeeter overhears and becomes paranoid. In the second act, Skeeter sends goons out to beat Billy Bahb and Bobby up and tie them up. Dolly comes in with a gun, shoots her husband in the leg. The Bahbs get free and open up the safe with Dolly’s help (she had the key due to her relationship with Skeeter; and of course, I have to sleep with her again). Bobby turns on his dad and knocks him unconscious. He and Dolly get the gold. Billy Bahb shoots his son in the head, Dolly shoots her husband a few more times, and Billy Bahb rides off on the handcart with the gold, down to the old haunted mine. Skeeter dies of his wounds, Bobby ends up mentally handicapped, working as a janitor in the new hotel in town, no longer a ladies’ man, and Bobby haunts the mine. Dolly winds up with the gold that conveniently fell off the handcart and takes over the town.
Fiasco was a lot of fun, and even with people who aren’t the strongest at improv, the suggestions and twists gave us a decent little story. Rules are fairly limited, which lets you craft a story fairly easily and also adds some tension and complications. I’m interested to try the game again.
We also played Small World, with Sean edging me out by a single gold coin at the very end (120-119). What a frustrating way to lose!
On to actual Gamzee product news. We’ve been working hard away on a few things. First is the iOS version of DownWords, which we actually finished and were ready to release. But then we realized we should wait, because we’re also adding some cool multiplayer features to the game that will make it that much better.
And we’ve also been working on our mysterious third game, which is seeing great progress. I can’t say what it is, but can say that it’s a very social, multiplayer game that should appeal to people who like things like Words With Friends and Draw Something.
Again, we’ve been woefully remiss in updating the blog (too much work, but in a good way).
At any rate, we did Game Night, as usual, last night, and were joined by our friends Holden and Duffy from PageWoo. Howard Marks (Gamzee CEO and co-founder) co-founded an incubator/startup accelerator called StartEngine, that we happen to share office space with. StartEngine’s a 90-day program that gives startups a seed investment, office space, expertise, and mentoring; and besides Howard and Paul Kessler from Bristol (one of Gamzee’s investors) has a really great group of mentors onboard from different entrepreneurial backgrounds.
The takeaway is that there are 10 other startups in our space, including PageWoo, who are doing quick, single-page websites for brands. It provides a really nice energy and a lot of cool people to run things by. And apparently new folks for Game Night.
Last night, we eased them into Game Night (they were new to it) with the single longest game of Munchkin (Munchkin Booty, to be precise) I’ve ever played. It took about 2 hours (it’s normally a 30-45 minute game), and Abe finally won it. That was followed up by a couple of rounds of BANG! Duffy was a little slow to pick it up and died almost immediately as the Sheriff. The second round, I would’ve won as outlaw, taking out the renegade (Duffy again) and the Sheriff (Max, playing the worst game of BANG! known to man, which started with him killing his Deputy, Sean), except Sean decided to simultaneously “help” (read “play”) Duffy and Max’s hands. So Max won.
In more work-related news, we’re in open beta testing of our newest game, DownWords. DownWords is a casual action word game that combines Tetris and Scrabble. Letter tiles fall from the top of the screen, and you have to click them and form words. The tiles gradually drop faster and faster, and eventually they’ll scroll off the screen, ending the game.
So far, feedback has been very positive (which is nice, we’re really fond of the game). It’s currently playable on desktop Web and on iOS devices. Android coming soon. And we’ll be launching it in earnest shortly.
But first, some news…
We’re in the home stretch on mystery game #1. It’s looking very nice. Stay tuned for more news.
Last week’s Game Night marked the debut of BANG!, a Spaghetti Western-themed card game that we’ve had in our office for around five months. We finally got around to playing it. BANG! is kind of a cross between Mafia/Werewolf and maybe a really dumbed-down Magic: The Gathering or Dominion, sans deck-building.
Players take on a secret role, except for the sheriff, and try to kill or help each other out secretly. The hidden role dynamic, variety of cards (we played with a super-set with several expansions), different characters, and other bits make for a fun, quick game. Plus, all the cards are in Italian and English, so you can practice your fancy accent.
This week, we brought out Small World again, for a four-handed game. It was the first time playing for Michael and Tom (Web Designer). But the great thing about Small World is that it’s pretty simple to pick up, a quick play, and fun. Despite some inadvertent cheating on my part, I managed to win the game, just barely. This was the first time I’d played any games with Emily where she didn’t win (although she did come in second).
We’ve all been heads-down cranking away on finishing up our first game (which is really cool, by the way — the feedback from VCs, analysts, gamers, folks at social networks and media companies, etc. has been fantastic), so I’ve been a little, well, very, remiss in updating this blog.
So first, what everyone’s been waiting for — Game Night updates.
We skipped Game Night 1/4 of the last set due to being too busy. The furthest back was Dominion — a great card/deck-building game that does away with the main problem with Magic:The Gathering (if you want to be competitive in the game, you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a single deck, and if you want to play multiple decks, draft regularly, or collect the cards, you end up spending a lot more than that) by having complete sets and expansions with all the cards in them guaranteed. When you no longer have the “collectible” factor in a CCG, you do away with the randomness and expense. Sure, you lose the fun of busting packs and trading cards, but you also save yourself a ton of money. And it makes it a lot easier to figure out strategies when you’re not dealing with tens of thousands of cards.
Emiley kicked butt at Dominion, winning 2/2 games her first time out.
The next week, we played an epic four-handed round of Talisman, with some heated competition, purposely killed-off characters (I have the 2nd edition, which is super-old school, including insanely unbalanced characters that range from awful to god-like), and putting the game on hold until we could finish it the next week during lunch. For those who haven’t played it, Talisman is essentially D&D in board game form, and has a cult following. The game came down to Emiley and I locked in heated battle for the Crown of Command. But as she was two Health Points ahead of me, she won the game. Barely. Her first time playing.
Hmm, maybe we should stop playing games with Emiley she hasn’t played before.
Yesterday, I missed Game Night. Because I was up in San Francisco for F8, the Facebook Developer Conference.
It was my first F8, and it was a great experience. There was a buzz about the entire convention hall, and I really liked what Zuckerberg and company announced. It’s no secret that Facebook wants you to spend more time on the site and to share more about your life. That’s what “Zuckerberg’s Law” is all about. And they came up with a pretty cool way to do that, allowing app developers to create their own actions for any object. So instead of just posting photos or liking things, you can now interact with pretty much anything through an app — reading books, watching movies, listening to music, cooking food, hiking a trail, running a marathon, etc.
The implications for games are pretty cool, as you can now socially share things like beating someone in PvP combat, besting their high score in a blitz-type game, playing a neat word in Words with Friends, or finishing a quest — in a far more meaningful way than the spam wall post and requests that social games have become known for.
The other big announcement was Timeline, which allows you to customize your profile, share a lot more info (if you want to), and automatically saves and rolls up anything you do share from the past. Plus, you can fill out profile info going back to your birth.
The new Timeline profile looks a lot nicer, too, with a cool, widescreen Cover Shot instead of just your tiny profile pic and a scroller of a few other pictures.
Like all Facebook revamps, this one seems to have met with some dislike. People were up in arms earlier this week about the News Feed and Ticker, which are both a prelude to Timeline. So it’ll be interesting to see all the hate when Timeline fully rolls out.
But I think the new changes are good ones that should make Facebook stickier and more social, and allow app developers to make a whole new generation of apps that are way more social than what we’ve seen before. The demos from Spotify and other music and video services were really, really cool, letting you see what friends are listening to and then click on it to check out the music yourself.
Oh, and we started some new people that I should probably mention — Gabe Hidalgo (whom we worked with at Acclaim/Playdom/Disney) as our QA Manager, and Randy Casey (out of EA, among other places) as engineer. They’ve both been here a little while now and are doing great work, so I should definitely give them a shout out. Belated welcome aboard, guys.
I should also say that we’re putting the finishing touches on our first game. Look for interesting news about playing it in the very near future.
It was Emiley’s first Game Night with Gamzee and she came out swinging. We tried Small World, a game I recently picked up and played a couple of 2-player rounds of with my fiancee. It is a game that I highly recommend. As board game fans know, good board games are expensive. Small World’s no exception, costing $49.99.
But Small World’s worth it. Aside from the gameplay (which I’ll get to in a moment), it features beautiful art, four different boards (for 2-, 3-, 4- and 5- player variations), nice thick cardstock race tokens, and nicely-designed and robust money, turn marker, custom pieces like mountains, heroes, a dragon, and fortifications, and a custom die (turning a 6-sided die into one that shows 0-3).
Gameplay is great. Unlike a lot of Eurogames, your time investment is limited due to the turn marker (8-10 turns, depending on the number of players). And the designer took time to craft four different boards for the varying amounts of players. It’s a very fun, well-balanced game with a clear strategy and a good amount of variation. The goal is to get the most victory coins, mostly through conquest, utilizing one or more races with different abilities and randomly-selected special powers.
Emiley cleaned up, winning handily.
We are pleased to announce Emiley Flowers joining the team, at least for a while, as a contract artist. Emiley is super-talented, and is going to be helping our art director, John Flynn out with cranking out all the assets making an isometric game requires.
You can check out some of her work here:
On an unrelated topic, as game dorks, we have a weekly game night every Thursday evening. Most of the games we play are Eurogames and/or Fantasy-themed. Frequent favorites are Munchkin, Munchkin Booty (the pirate set), Talisman (2nd edition), and Settlers of Cataan. We actually have a bunch more games, but we usually wind up playing those.
Last week, we tried out Dominion, which John bought. For those who’ve never played, Dominion is a “Living Card Game,” which combines a lot of the appeal of Collectible Card Games, except there aren’t sealed, randomized packs, and you can get all the cards in a set for a low price (saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars versus something like Magic: The Gathering).
In Dominion, you have a varied set of communal cards that you can “buy” to add to your deck each turn. Each player tries to amass the most Victory Points, and play continues until three stacks of purchasable cards are exhausted or the stack of 6-point Victory Point cards (Provinces). What makes it cool is that the base set comes with a wide variety of cards, so you can swap out the purchasable cards with dozens of variants, making each game different with totally new strategies.
We played a couple games, the stock setup, which Sean won outright, and the “Large Size” deck variant, which has a bunch of cards that add cards to your deck (and one that gives you points for each 10 cards in your deck rounded down). That game was much closer, with a 2-point difference between last and first. I won that round
Next week, who knows? Michael’s been clamoring for some Trivial Pursuit. We have Bang!, and haven’t yet played (and I’m definitely interested). And I just bought Small World, but have only played with my long-suffering fiancee.