Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Steampunks and Scrapbooks

I’ve been looking for full time work since this Tinker business I’ve been experimenting with just isn’t paying the bills.  I applied to a graphic designer position with a scrapbooking company, and was politely informed that they cater to a “feminine” clientele and that my art isn’t what they are looking for.

OK, sure.  I could have made some great products for them, but to each their own.

I have to wonder, though.  With things like epbot.com, Forbes and IBM pegging steampunk as a Big Deal, and this sort of thing, with “steampunk” at least as important as “selfie” in dictionaries:

SteampunkDictionary

…it seems to me that steampunk design ethos, something I’m fairly familiar with these days, isn’t exactly “feminine”, but neither is it something below notice.

It’s not even strongly gendered in my experience, with steampunk fans quite happy to embrace things like Girl Genius or Hullabaloo not because of “token girls” but because of interesting and well crafted visuals and characters, some of whom happen to be female.  To be sure, there are those who take the Victorian fashion and buttoned-up morality as a sort of challenge, trying to find ways to make it pornographic (which doesn’t intersect largely with scrapbook patrons… I think… but I’m not researching it), but that’s just what the Internet does.  For the most part, what I’ve seen of the steampunk ethos and design is very inclusive and relatively nonjudgmental, which is part of the appeal of that “alternate history science fiction” sort of world where imagination is king.

I’m not a woman, but I’m married to a wonderful one, and she doesn’t see my steampunk work like the Tinker products and say “oh, that’s just so… masculine, ewwww”.  She appreciates it for its curious blend of precision and ramshackle weirdness.

So, I have to wonder what sort of market there is out there for steampunk designs that can be used in scrapbooking.  There’s certainly a “do it yourself” appeal to a lot of steampunk, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to prepackaged scrapbooking goods, and there’s always going to be those who heap disdain on any hint of the illiterate masses flirting with mainstream acceptance of their formerly fringe “geek safe zone” (see: “glue a gear on it“).  Even so, I instinctively think that dismissing steampunk might be a bit premature, and to consider it beneath the notice of “feminine” clientele is perhaps shortsighted.

To be fair, this company didn’t complain about steampunk explicitly, I’m just ruminating on their feedback.  I’m just not sure that “feminine” need equate to this sort of simple thing all the time.

What do you think?

Dragged Into Draenor

So… Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is back in Draenor.  I liked the first visit, with the weirdly shattered, floating-in-space landscape, but hey, if they could Cataclysm the geewhillikers out of Azeroth (a pox on them for flooding Thousand Spires!), they can go fix Draenor with some superglue and spackle.

I have something of a love/disgruntled relationship with World of Warcraft.  There are elements of it that I don’t care for, but it’s a lovely world and I love flying around in it.  I did finally get a character to the level cap in Pandaria, and do a little shuffling around in the endgame dungeons and Timeless Isle.  Since I hit level 90, I can fly around Pandaria, too, and that meant I spent a few days’ worth of game time just flying around, taking screenshots.  I still have fun with the game, warts and all.  That last binge used up my last game credit from the now-defunct WoW Visa, though, which is unfortunate.

Lately I’ve been wondering if I can’t kill two birds with one stone, though.  Y’see, I’ve been supremely busy of late trying to find a job after circumstance effectively “retired” me from the game industry.  I’ve worked as a Technical Artist in games for almost a decade, but with a crummy economy and young, enthusiastic grads always ready to be fed to the beast, I was over the hill anyway, and fell out of the industry due to a company downsizing.

So it goes.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be grand to have a fairy godpatron step up and offer me a full time job, being a tourist and photographer in the revised Draenor?  Take screenshots, write guides, opine about… everything.  I know, I know, that’s the dream of millions of devoted Blizzard devotees, and I’m just as likely to point out problems as I am to praise the finer points.  Who would pay for that?

I’m sure I’ll play around in Draenor once the expansion goes on sale and I can free up some time and justify the cost.  (The cost isn’t just the $15, it’s the time spent since I have to get what I want to done before the timer runs out.)  I’ll take some screenshots, mess around in a few dungeons, have some fun.

In the meantime, it’s good to see people having fun in the game.  It’s not a perfect game, but it’s hanging in there, and though I don’t have a hand in its creation, it is nice to see a game appreciated by its patrons.  Sometimes the simple joy of playing is lost in the periodic waves of griping, and the early days of a WoW expansion tend to hit higher points of optimism in the expansion life cycle waveform.

So… have fun, everyone!  I’ll be along later.

This is just an addendum to the photo set of the Gearpunk dice.  We’ve ordered some in a black nickel finish, and though we don’t have all of them in stock yet thanks to a factory mistake, we have a few.  May as well show some beauty photos, right?

s_D6GearpunkBlackNickel

D6GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D8GearpunkBlackNickel

D8GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D12GearpunkBlackNickel

D12GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D20GearpunkBlackNickel

D20GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D20SpinGearpunkBlackNickel

D20SpinGearpunkBlackNickel

s_DFudgeGearpunkBlackNickel

DFudgeGearpunkBlackNickel

If you’ve perused the photo library of the Gearpunk dice, you might have noted that the Zinc-finished dice are rather shiny, especially when compared to the brass and copper variants.

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Copper

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Copper

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Brass/Bronze

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Brass/Bronze

Gearpunk D10 Decader Zinc

Gearpunk D10 Decader Zinc

I’m partial to the antiqued look, both because I like the more rustic aesthetic, and because the antiquing makes the dice easier to read.  Since the factory managed to mangle our order’s quantities, we wound up with over 100 extra shiny Zinc D10 “decader” dice.  One of them seemed like the perfect test subject, then, to see what sort of simple inking options I might have.  I’ll be trying other experiments, but this is the initial test, which I’m pleased with.

I used Speedball “super black” India ink, water and a small hobby paintbrush.

Specifically, this ink:

Speedball Ink

And a brush a bit like the middle one here:

Small paintbrush

Though I picked up mine in a set of three at the local hobby store for $2.  It doesn’t need to be an expensive brush, just one that will hold a point when wet and is about 1/8″ in diameter or so.

I put eight drops of water and three drops of ink in a plastic cup for this experiment.  I diluted the ink to give myself a little time for the ink to dry.  When used straight, the ink dries fairly quickly, and I wanted a little wiggle room in case I messed up.  This experiment really doesn’t need a lot of ink, either.  I would have been fine with 1 drop of ink and 2 drops of water in retrospect, though it’s not a bad thing to have a bit more than necessary… and it’s not like a few drops really put much of a dent in my supply.  That’s the nice thing about this ink; it’s great to use, even when diluted.

I used the brush to pick up a bit of the ink, then gently applied it to the background behind the numbers on the die face.  The water tension naturally makes the ink settle into the recesses, though I did need to guide it around a little.  I added a little with a light touch to the other recesses in the design, and brushed lightly to help spread things around and get some ink in the smaller details around the edges and corners.

Since the ink does run a bit, I did only one face at a time, the one facing up and its edges.  Inking the adjacent faces would mean the ink would pool largely on the downhill side of the contours, and while I didn’t want a flat color, neither did I want it heavily lopsided.

Each face, then, took a few minutes to dry.  That’s not too bad, and if I were doing a set of dice, one face at a time per die, by the time I finished with the last die’s upright face, the first die could be ready to roll over and do the next face.  It’s best if you get each application dry before doing the next, so that timing might not work perfectly, but all in all, it wasn’t too much of a wait.

I’m sorry I didn’t have my camera handy to take photos while I was working, this project had to fit in some of my very constrained time last night and I wasn’t properly prepared.

Here are some photos of the finished die next to one of its unprocessed kin, in a variety of lighting situations (including one that’s just a color correction, taking the yellows out of an indoor photo).

s_IMG_7382 s_IMG_7383 s_IMG_7385 s_IMG_7380 s_IMG_7380_alt s_IMG_7381

I think it turned out well, much better than I had expected.  I’ll be doing more experiments when I can, but this was a good start, I think.

Thank you!

It’s been quiet around here lately.  I’m still looking for work, and Unemployment is about exhausted.  So, I still don’t have the luxury of spending much time here, and I’m… significantly stressed. Still, this is worth noting.  The Gearpunk Dice that we’ve been waiting for since last year are finally here, so we’ll be shipping them out to everyone as soon as we can process them. Thank you for your interest and patience!

It’s worth noting that there are two photos of each single die.  This is to show them in different lighting and against different surfaces, in this case, black leather and aged painted concrete.

Chromaround Print and Play

I’ve been dabbling in game design again.  It’s just one of those things that I do to keep myself from stressing too much, and since this whole “being unemployed” is really stressful, well, I’ve been doing a lot of creative things to destress.  I suppose I could have played more games to get through my backlog, but creative pursuits just seem more wise in the long run, since there’s at least some potential to make some money to pay a portion of the bills.

That’s part of why I did the Tinker Gearcoin Kickstarter.  It turned out really well, so thank you, all of you, who were a part of the campaign!  Despite the pretty numbers that we posted there, it’s still not a career replacement stream of revenue, though, so I keep on creating.

EleChromaroundBack

Anyway, this Chromaround game may someday turn into a project that we put on Kickstarter, just to get them professionally printed on spiffy paper, complete with a nice box and shrink wrapping.  We may put them up on TheGameCrafter.com before that as well, like we did for the Tinker Deck prototypes, but the whole point of taking it to Kickstarter is to get a bulk deal going to leverage the economy of scale that we get from printing a large quantity of decks.

For the moment, though, we need to really put it through the wringer and playtest the game to make sure it’s ready for release.  I’ve ordered some sample decks from Artscow.com for testing here, and I may send some out to other interested parties.  We’re also offering this “print and play” version of the game (again, like we did for the Tinker Decks).  It’s technically based around color, so printing in black and white won’t give the full effect of the game, but I’ve tried to make it possible to work for colorblind players with the elemental logos.

Rules for the core game are below.  This is where we really would love some input, if you’re up for some experimentation.  These cards could be used for several different games, actually, especially if we make them hexagonal and have the outer gems sliced in half (so they could be placed side by side to create a whole gem, making for puzzles and position-based games), but for now we’re just looking to develop this one.  (The game is playable by 2 to 8 players, though there are special rules for two players.)  Words that are bold are key terms for the game.

Thank you everyone!

==================================

Chromaround 1.0

Card Components

Each card has a Core (large colored gem) that consists of one or two colors, and a set of smaller outer Gems that indicate what colors of opponent Cores that card can defeat.  A dual color Core is considered to be both colors, and therefore may be defeated by any other card that could defeat either of its colors.  The grey “chips” around the perimeter are placeholders and do not affect either offense or defense.  Each color has an attendant elemental logo to help identification, especially for color blind players, but these logos do not have a direct impact on play in this game.

Goal

Players are trying to collect the most points.  Each trick you collect is worth one point.  (For a more complex game, score by counting the Cores that you collect in tricks that you win.  Single color Cores are worth one point, dual color Cores are worth two points.)  A trick consists of the stack of cards after every player has played a single card.  (Two cards per player if playing with two players.)  

A round is completed when all players have exhausted their hands.  A game may consist of one round or several, depending on how long you’d like to play.  We suggest letting each player be the dealer once (change the dealer each round) as a simple baseline.  Record your cumulative score after each round.  The player with the most points after all rounds is the winner.

Setup

For each round, shuffle all the cards and deal 5 cards to each player.  (10 for each if you’re playing with two players.)  ***This is an easy place to suggest variation.  Odd numbers of cards make scoring less likely to produce ties, and fewer cards make play faster and decisions easier.  Two player games tend to play better when each player can play two cards per trick.***

Set aside the rest of the deck.  The rest of the deck is only used during play in a two player game.

Basic Play Structure

The first player plays any card from their hand.  This is the lead card for the trick.  (If you are playing with two players, for each trick, flip over the top card of the deck as the lead card, then proceed as usual.)

Each player must then play a card from their hand (see below in Card Interaction for how this works), taking turns in sequence.  After every player has played one card (two if playing with two players), the owner of the top card on the stack takes all of the cards in the stack.  (This is a trick, which is relevant for one style of scoring.)

The player who took the trick starts the next one, playing the next lead card (or card after the lead card if playing with two players).

Once all players have played all their cards, it is the end of a round, and you should record your scores.

Card Interaction

When a player must play a card, they may play any card they have in hand.  If the card played can defeat the top card already in play on the stack, it is placed on top of the stack and becomes the new top card.  If the card played cannot defeat the existing top card, it must be placed somewhere under it (order does not matter), and the existing top card retains its position on top.  (Keep track of what you play, since the player who played the card that remains the top card at the end of the trick claims the cards in the stack.)

==================================

And that should cover it.  It’s designed to be fairly simple and quick, at least before you start trying to plan a few plays ahead.

The big question we have is, well… is it fun?  Also, is it actually simple and quick?  Does it allow for any sort of strategies or interesting decisions, or is it so easy to play that there’s not much mental meat to it?  (That’s not enough to kill the game, but it could constrain its appeal to children learning colors and how to play card games… more of a gateway game rather than one to break out in more serious settings.)

We have two big structural questions beyond that, though.

One is about the cards and their Core-Gems system.  Presently, they are designed in two “paper rock scissors” triangles (primary colors clockwise and secondary colors counterclockwise) such that:

  • Blue always defeats Purple and Red
  • Red always defeats Orange and Yellow
  • Yellow always defeats Green and Blue
  • Purple always defeats Blue and Green
  • Green always defeats Yellow and Orange
  • Orange always defeats Red and Purple

This was a simple rule to allow for some element of memorization and planning, to see if it’s possible to force others to play into your longer term strategies.

It might prove more interesting to make the perimeter gems more varied by making the perimeter gems more arbitrary and not follow a pattern.  This would make planning almost impossible, but it may make for more varied and unpredictable play, for better or worse.  Would you like a more unpredictable set of outer gems on each card?  (This has considerations for alternate game rules as well, like card placement games, if we can get them made as hexagonal cards.)

Two, do the dual color Cores help or hinder the game?  There are some clear tiers of efficiency among color combinations, but dual color Cores might make the game too easy, meaning the last player in a trick is almost always going to be the one to win that trick, since most can defeat a wider array of other Cores, and each in turn can be defeated by a wider array of attackers.  The hope was to make the game more varied but still allow some planning, but they may not actually be performing that function.  They also make scoring more varied, with some more subtle decision making about when to play them, but maybe that effect is also not working, or is not interesting enough.

If the answer to the first question is “yes, make the perimeter gems more arbitrary and unpredictable” it would naturally affect the approach to the second question, as the cards could be balanced along different lines.  The dual color Cores are inherently a “more options on offense and more weaknesses on defense” sort of system, but they need not stay that way if the color defeat cycles are broken.

================================

Thank you everyone for your interest and feedback!  Comments here or via email to tishtoshtesh at gmail will be most appreciated.

I can’t help but feel that there’s something here, but the game really needs to be put through the paces to see.  I look forward to any opinions or data points you might offer!

================================

The deck is designed as a standard-ish 54 card deck.  That means you’ll print one of each of these and then three more copies of the simple single color Core cards (so there will be four copies of the single color Core cards and single copies of each of the dual color Core cards).  The backs are optional, of course.

ChromaroundPower ChromaroundSA1Pri ChromaroundSA1Sec ChromaroundSA2 ChromaroundSimple ChromaroundWeak ChromaroundBacks

I’ve become fond of Slingshot Braves, an Android game that’s a nice mix of Squids (another good game) and billiards, with a little Final Fantasy VII flavor thrown in (with their Elements, a sort of materia or socketable gems character enhancement system, with some locked, some open slots).  It’s not a perfect game, but it’s fun and entertaining, though I may be biased since I love the geometry of billiards.  Throw in a bit of character building, and I’m sold, much like how I’m a fan of how Puzzle Quest takes match-3 gameplay and adds RPG elements.

Tangentially, Gem Spinner II is an excellent match-3 game that I stumbled across recently.  It’s my new favorite in the genre, even over other great games like Puzzle Quest, Marvel Puzzle Quest (qualified) and Bret Airborne.

Slingshot Braves even starts you off in proper Metroid tradition, with super strong characters fighting a dragon… then pulls you out of the daydream and into the life of a lowly Adventurer.  Yeah… the story isn’t the game’s strong point.  It’s not bad, it’s just thin, but I don’t mind.  The play’s the thing.

You control a team of three characters, two of which are active on the battlefield at once.  The third sits in reserve, where they can heal, which is handy if someone gets hurt.  You can rotate characters out to approach tactical situations or heal up.  There are five different types of weapons with different uses, though I’d note that spears are more tactically useful than the others due to the combo system.  If you can keep a combo going by bouncing off of your teammates and baddies, you can really rack up bonus damage.  Spears pierce through enemies (in fine RPG tradition), so they make it much easier to maintain combos when you can bounce off your friends, even if you’re surrounded.

Using the touch interface, you pull back on your character and launch them at the enemies (all on a flat XY plane, no 3D gameplay here, though the game uses 3D models), which is the “slingshot” mechanic.  If you can figure out how your unit’s round footprint will bounce off of other units’ round bases, you’ll have a lot of fun bouncing around the arena, smashing foes.  The game shows you the results of the first bounce with a dotted line, but if you’re good, you can get two, three or more bounces plotted mentally, which can be really satisfying to execute.

It’s a solid game, and free to play to boot.  Some will react allergically to that, but it works very well here.  There is some light competition involved, but it’s a matter of racing for points to get better gear in a prize ranking, never PvP.  There’s little that offers good value for money, so it’s not crucial to spend on the game, and the game isn’t broken if you don’t.  The main purchasable is “gems”, which can be used on a variety of things, but none are essential.  The best gear is only available from the “Gacha” system, which is effectively a gear slot machine, but since multiplayer is always cooperative (metagame races for points aside), any money someone else spends on elite gear is only going to help you in the long run.  (And perhaps oddly, they would make more money from me if they did move to a straight up “buy X armor/weapon” model.  I hate crapshoot gambling for gear in general, and there’s no way I’m spending real money on a chance for goodies.  The Extra Credits crew savaged the current F2P design ethos, rightfully, I think, but the lack of direct competition in Slingshot Braves saves it, I think.)

PvP won’t work in this design, being more or less “buy to win”, but at the moment, they aren’t bothering with PvP.  So, there’s that asterisk waiting in the wings, perhaps, but I can hope that they are smart enough to keep away from PvP, or to normalize it if they introduce it, leveling the playing field.  I suppose we’ll see.

For now, though, I heartily recommend the game.

Oh, and as to the “diversity” in the title, this amused me greatly.  One of the recent armor sets in the Gacha was a really great set, with a Counter ability (automatically hit back for 10x damage received in melee) and a health regeneration ability.  Either alone is worth its weight in gold, but both on one piece of armor, well, that’s borderline overpowered.  Of course, it’s about the skimpiest armor in the game, which is ridiculous… but at least the design is almost equally ridiculous on both genders.  Yes, that’s my lead character with a Predator/Optimus Prime helmet and a Las Vegas dancer outfit.  Even his companions, in silly gear of their own, can’t really look at him.  But it’s his best gear!

Embracing Diversity

Embracing Diversity

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 140 other followers