Posts Tagged ‘Zomblobs’


For 2013, I hereby resolve to:

Play more games than I buy.  (HumbleBundle.com, IndieRoyale.com, IndieGala.com, GoG.com, Steam… sorry, guys.)

Play games I already have before getting new ones.

Get Guild Wars 2 working.  (I got a new nVidia card to make the framerate more than 10fps… and it hard freezes the computer now.)

Revise Zomblobs! and maybe even get the 3D models done and offered via Shapeways… and maybe work on a Kickstarter for it.

Take more screenshots.  (Thank you, Steam, for F12!)

Blog about stuff.  Maybe even interesting stuff.  Include screenshots.

Write more of the Project Khopesh story.  Lots more.

Explore a ghost town.  Take lots of photos.

Do more art, and make some stuff to sell on Zazzle.  (I’ve earned $2 so far, wooo!)

…and maybe, just maybe, sleep through the night.  With child #4 coming in June, I know it’s not likely, but these lists aren’t complete without one really outlandish resolution.

Tally ho!


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This.  This is what I want for Zomblobs!… someday.  I saw the trend, the potential, but I’m not sure that my timing will be sufficient.  Trying to chase new markets in game design isn’t something that’s easy to do when timing is a factor, and I can only put hobbyist time (and barely that) into the process.

3D Printed Open Source Game

Zomblobs! may never really happen as a product I can make money from, or even be as finalized as I’d like (real life is a beast sometimes) but it’s nice to see that it could have, and that I wasn’t the only one to see the potential there.  Yes, technically, that’s an open source game, not really a commercial product, but still… 3D printing can be a great tool for indie-scale game design.

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I’ve been busy working on… too many projects.  I’ll have a Zomblobs! “patch” up here closer to the weekend, though.  Remember, the beta is over thisaway, and I’m looking for feedback.  Please let me know what you think and ask me any questions you might have!

In the meantime, here’s an eeeeevil Death Kitty I drew and painted to, er… brighten your day.

Death Kitty

Oh, and this is the rune I plopped under his feet.  I’ve long loved constructing Celtic knots, and this was fun to work out.

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Zomblobs! is finally in a playable state!   It’s a tabletop tactical wargame, played on a map with hexagonal cells, miniatures (folded paper for this version) and six-sided dice.  It’s the beta, so it’s not yet precisely balanced or perfectly presentable, but it’s playable!  (If you print out the PDF and prepare some paper, anyway.)


I’ve worked long enough in the game industry to believe that game testers are the last line of defense between a working game and a broken one.  There’s definitely more polishing I want to do before I call Zomblobs! an alpha-release-worthy product, but it’s in a state where the game will benefit greatly from playtesting and experimentation.

Polishing can be pretty prickly

If you all have the time to at least read through the rules and give me some feedback, I’d greatly appreciate it.  If you have time to print out the game and play it for a while, I’d really love to hear what you think of it.

Many thanks for your interest!  I’ll be writing more articles on the game, especially if there’s something important to address that I haven’t yet covered in my previous articles.

Consume or be consumed!

For Science!


Now, in convenient just-under-19 MB size!  It’s a bit JPEGgy, but that’s just how the Zomblob crumbles.

Zomblobs Rules Beta Smaller

…and, because commenter “ironshield” down there has a very good point on printing, here’s the exact same data split into a “text” file and an “extras” file, just in case you want them that way.

Zomblobs Rules Beta Text

Zomblobs Rules Beta Extras (unit tokens, maps, map widgets, templates, that sort of thing)

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Just a little something I’ve been working on.  The Zomblobs are coming!

Zomblobs! Desktop 1

Happy weekend, all!

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I’ve nailed down the ruleset for Zomblobs!, and I’m making some final touches to the files so I can present it as a PDF file that anyone can print out and play with.  This means making a few maps, and a few map features for variety.  As it will be a public beta of the game, it will inevitably need a little tuning and a lot of playtesting, so I’m hoping to get it out to as many people as possible.  I’ll be making a big announcement about it here in a bit, once I get the presentation polished.

In the meantime, though, I’m left to think a little bit about filling the gaps.

Have you ever played the license plate game?  There are probably a few different ones, but the one I play involves looking at license plate on cars as you pass by them and try to make a word out of the letters that are on the plates.  It’s a bit of a cross between a literary Rorschach test and a vocabulary test.  Something like the following on a plate might produce a variety of results.

498 MNM

The first thing I thought of was Mmrnmhrm… showing my 90s gamer roots.  If I had a craving for chocolate, I might fudge the rules a little and think of M&Ms.  If I were a psychologist, I might think of monomaniacal.  If I were a monomaniac, I might think the rules don’t apply to me, and think of Mini Me.  If I were a Star Wars geek, I might think that license plates don’t apply to a galaxy long ago and far away and think of Mon Mothma.  If I were a historian, I might think of monuments.  If I were an anthropologist, I might think of manmade.  If I were a mathmetician, I might think of minimizing something.  If I were a zookeeper I might think of monotremes.

Whatever my background, whatever my vocabulary, it would inform my selection.  With minimal information to start with, and a few simple rules, there are a lot of paths to try.

That’s what I’m angling for with Zomblobs!  Some simple rules, some simple actions, some relatively simple units, some simple state tracking, all brewing up a nice storm of gameplay options to make tactics interesting.  Time and testing will tell if I manage it well, but that’s my goal.  It may well require players to bring something of their own to the table, or at least, the willingness to read the rules and try things out.  They may need to fill in the gaps a little bit and play nice when the rules don’t quite cover all possible corner cases.

Maybe I’m just making excuses, but then, even the most tenured of tabletop wargames have disclaimers in their rulebooks that suggest players use their own judgement when the rules prove insufficient to curious situations.  I have tried diligently to compose a playable ruleset that should answer most questions, but I simply don’t know all the weird things that can happen as players try to break the rules.

It’s actually a good thing for the players to try to break the game.  That’s the point of beta testing.  I’m relying on testing situations to fill in the gaps where I just didn’t foresee everything.  I’ve mapped things out as well as I can, but exploration is necessary for the rest.

So thank you for your interest!  I still have a lot of things going on at the moment, but the light at the end of the pre-beta tunnel is getting brighter.

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I wrote a fair bit about the dice-based combat system I’m using in my Zomblobs! game last time, but I wanted to add this smaller coda about criticals and what I see as an “underdog” mechanic within my system.

Variety is the spice of life

Many games use the idea of “critical” strikes (sometimes called “crits”) to spice up combat a little.  As the theory goes, these critical strikes do some extra bit of damage or cause some bonus, representing the “lucky strike” of hitting a foe’s funny bone or artery.  The WoWPedia has a good definition of how criticals work in World of Warcraft for a little more detail, noting that each game does things a little differently.

If variable damage and hit accuracy rates are the salt that makes games a bit more interesting by dodging perfectly deterministic combat resolution, criticals are the cayenne pepper that makes the occasional bite something really special.  In practical terms, they not only serve the purpose of instilling variety, but they also give game designers another handle to tweak as they fiddle around with balance and even the game’s flavor/feel.  They give players more chances to have memorable “lucky rolls” that turn the tide of an otherwise unwinnable game… or more reasons to curse their luck.

This balance between luck and tactical decisions can be a tricky one.  I really want Zomblobs! to have a very strong tactical element, and for luck to be minimal, though I see some gameplay value in dice rolling and simulating the chaos of combat that actually does wind up being somewhat less than perfectly controlled.  The core dice rolling system of “successes” on attack and defense cover most of what I want to do with randomness.  Each point of attack or defense has a 2/3 chance of succeeding, which is enough to make attack decisions somewhat risky without being too crazily uncontrolled.  (It might actually be too big of a chance of failure, but 5/6 chance of success might be too small a chance of failure, and I’m trying to stick with common six-sided dice.  As ever, playtesting will be crucial to nailing down the right feel.)

Criticals are layered on top of this thusly:

Criticals in Zomblobs! happen when all of the dice you roll show the same number.  If that happens, you are considered to have rolled an extra successful die for the combat.  This means one more attack point added to your attack total, or one more defense point added to your defense total.  This also means rolling all 1s or all 2s, which would otherwise leave you with a 0 attack or defense total, will actually give you a total of 1 for attack or defense.  Consider this the “lucky unlucky strike”.

Most curiously, these criticals are easier to score the fewer dice you roll.  Weaker attacks have greater potential to hit a little bigger.  This particular “crit” design is therefore more of an “underdog” mechanism, rather than a “win more” mechanism.  Instead of harder hits probably hitting even harder, it’s the weak hits that are most likely to slip in a little extra punch.  It’s not quite the “slow blade” that can win a Dune-flavored shield knife fight, but it’s another tactical consideration that should keep someone from always just using their biggest attacks.

At least, that’s the theory.  Playtesting will hammer this all out, and the design may need to change.  Still, for now, I like the core combat chances, and I think criticals will add the occasional spike of fun, while boosting the “underdog” attacks ever so slightly.  This should also have the effect of speeding up the game a little bit, as the lower attack value Actions (which usually are also faster, with a lower Time Tick cost, meaning units who use them will act more frequently) gain a little extra potential punch.

It should also make some tactical decisions more interesting:  do you go for the 3-Power attack and hope you roll well for the basic successes or go for the 2-Power attack and hope for doubles?  This sort of decision, where there’s a good statistical case to be made, but it’s beyond casual calculation, is an opportunity for players to play “by their gut” or do some number crunching on the side and really min-max their game… or maybe just bring some lucky dice.

Whatever the case, it’s an implementation of criticals that seems unique to me, so I want to see it work.  Designing Zomblobs! is itself a bit of a game, or at least a puzzle.  That’s the fun of game design in my book.  Wiring all the variables together into an enjoyable machine is great fun.

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Ostensibly, the much-ballyhooed “SOPA” means “Stop Online Piracy Act”, but I prefer to think of it as “Sack Our Pathological Administrators”.  Not that such will happen, mind you, but one can dream.

As near as I can tell, SOPA is a thinly veiled statist control grab, all in the name of stopping piracy.  Guess what, guys?  Piracy can’t be stopped.  And no, the varied and vehement denizens of the internet don’t trust you with power.  To echo a famous pithy quip:

“Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual”

It does strike me as odd, though, these “going dark” protests.  The problem is that the U.S. government weasels want to control the internet, possibly censoring it, and the answer is to… take your ball and go home?  Effectively self-censor?  It seems like a weird message to send, but with big ol’ sites like Google and Wikipedia in on the action, at least it’s calling attention to the stupid potential policy.  (Though curiously making it a little harder to research said policy.  Again… odd.)  I do like XKCD’s take on it, found at this convenient link.  Sam and Fuzzy’s author comments briefly on it as well thisaway.  Shamus of Twenty Sided has a good article up on it, too, and I like the Rampant Coyote’s take.

As for me, well, I’m going to go work on Zomblobs!, which will be released as a Free to Play tabletop tactical wargame.  The ruleset will be free in PDF form, but you can buy nice printouts.  The PDFs will come with units, maps and tokens you can cut out and play with, or you can go buy models from my Shapeways store or maps from The Game Crafter.  Play a fully functional if vaguely unaesthetic version for free with a little elbow grease, or upgrade a bit to a nicer version for a little cash.  Seems simple to me.

It’s evidence of my mindset; create something that’s fun to play and offers great value, create a relationship of trust and goodwill, and hope that some kind souls are willing to chip in a few bucks for the experience.  I won’t be able to make a living off of the scope of what I’ll be offering (though Three Rings does with their games, notably Puzzle Pirates, and they have a similar philosophy), but I’ll still be offering something I consider to be valuable.  Giving, not controlling, sharing, not stealing.  …and perhaps sneakily, monetizing actual, tangible stuff rather than the digital parts of the game.  Sure, my work is copyrighted, but again, pirates can’t be stopped.  I prefer the carrot approach rather than trying to find a bigger stick.

Seems to be a better way for me to conduct my business.  I’m the sole proprietor of this site, Alpha Hex and Zomblobs!, so I’m going to do what I want with them, and that’s try to get as many people playing and having fun with them as I can.  I think I’ve made some fun games, and while I’m no Raph Koster, Klaus Teuber or Wil Wright, I’m just confident enough in these games to want to put my work out there for consumption and feedback.

Rally ho!

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Steam has had a fun little promotion going on for the holidays again this year.  I didn’t spend much money on games, since I already have most of what I want and far more than I have time for.  Still, it was fun to see what they had up for sale, and to try some of their challenges for their promotion.  I even wound up tying Sanctum (that I purchased a while back in an Indie Royale sale) to my Steam account to try for that Achievement, hoping for a useful coupon (I got the Solar 2 one that way).

Short story long, I now have a handful of coupons and a pair of games to give away, and nobody obvious to give them to.  (I’m keeping the lumps of coal.)

Steam Stuff

For the next few hours, Terraria and the Portal games are on deep discount (and I highly recommend Portal and Portal 2), so those coupons aren’t much use at the moment, but they will be someday.

So… how to decide who to give them to?

Well, for Cogs, a great little sliding tile puzzle game with delightful steampunky overtones, how about this?  Whomever makes the gearflake that my panel of elite judges likes the most will win Cogs.  Instructions for how to make a gearflake are in my Steampunk Snowflake post from a little while back, but don’t just take that pattern, try something new, a variation on the theme of “gears and snowflake”.

For World of Goo, a fantastic puzzle/building game, I’m looking for a good practical way to make some goo of my own, for some Zomblobs! promotional experiments.  The person who finds me the best recipe for homebrew goo suited for my use will win the game.  Specifically, I’m looking for some sort of goo that’s partially translucent, mostly gelatinous, but able to hold a shape well enough that it could be used as a board game piece, about the size of a standard chess pawn.  Sort of a stronger, more durable JELL-O, nontoxic, of course.  I’ll need to be able to put it into a mold for shaping, so it will need to be mostly liquid but be able to “set” and be removed easily from a mold (so the final surface can’t be sticky, and it shouldn’t stick to a plastic or ceramic mold).

As for the coupons, as specific as they are, it’s probably best to just say that whomever speaks up first for a specific coupon will get it.

Entries for the Cogs and World of Goo contest should be sent to my contact email, tishtoshtesh in the gmail system.  If you’re the first one to speak up for a coupon (speak up here first, then if you’re first, email me), please send your Steam handle to me at that same email, and I’ll get in touch.

For all of these, it looks like I’ll need to be logged into Steam and so will you to perform the trade (really just me giving you the widget), so it may take a few days or so to get the timing right, just because of scheduling, but I’ll do what I can, again, communicating via that gmail address.

Entries for the game contests have until January 15th, but the coupons are up for grabs immediately.

Happy New Year!

2012 should be a good year.  It’s either the end of the world or the release of Zomblobs! and either should prove interesting.  (I’m still formatting the rulebook PDFs for the Zomblobs! beta.  I meant to have it done last week, but circumstances prevented it.)

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I’ve written about most of the card by now, but I wanted to cover the other remaining bits and mention a few other things.  Once again, here’s the card:

Zomblob card Murmurer

And here are the other articles on it: Warming Up and Keeping Track.  There are other Zomblob articles, all tagged with the Zomblob label… I’ll make a comprehensive list when I post the beta ruleset and PDFs.  (This has been pushed back a little bit thanks to two other big projects that demanded immediate attention, but I want to get them before the 20th or so if at all possible.)

The biggest thing I haven’t covered yet is the combat resolution.  It works like HeroScape (which I still haven’t played, sadly, though I’ve researched it) or the WoW Miniatures game.  Each attack uses either WILL or POW, and the number cited is the number of six-sided dice you roll.  (So a POW 5 attack would have you rolling 5 dice.)  This number may be modified by a few things, so you may be rolling a few more or less.  The defending unit rolls dice as well, dictated by the attack.  Ranged attacks will have the defender rolling as many dice as the RDEF value lists, defense against melee attacks use the MDEF value, and defense against WILL attacks use the WILL value.  (If you’re using an Action on one of your own units, ignore the WILL values.)  A die showing 3, 4, 5, or 6 is a “success”, either in attack or defense.  A POW-based attack will deal damage equal to how many successes the attacker rolls, minus the number of successes the defender rolls.  A WILL-based attack is binary; if the attacker rolls more successes than the defender, the attack succeeds.

It’s worth noting that the base values for these attributes will range from 1 to 6.  They might be modified by game effects, but they shouldn’t wind up too big.

Example 1:  A Banshee Feral Ranged unit uses a ranged attack with POW 4 against our hapless Murmurer up there.  The Murmurer is a Support unit, generally hiding behind the front lines, so it has a decent RDEF of 4.  Both players roll 4 dice.  The attacking player rolls 3 successes, and the defending player unluckily rolls 1 success.  The Murmurer takes 2 damage (loses 2 Health points) because it only defended against one of the 3 attack points.

Example 2:  An Interceptor Aspirant Melee unit uses a WILL attack (WILL 6) to try to lock the Murmurer in place for a turn.  The Murmurer is a stubborn unit, as its WILL value of 5 attests.  The attacking player rolls 6 dice and gets 4 successes.  The defending player rolls 5 dice and gets 4 successes.  The Murmerer thus defends against the WILL attack and does not suffer the lockdown.

Example 3:  The Murmerer then uses its own Action that prevents a unit from moving (the second one in the list up there), targeting a rapidly approaching Rhino Feral Melee unit to stall its charge.  The Rhino has a WILL of 5, just as stubborn as the Murmurer, but it has melee attacks with POW of 5 and 6.  The Murmurer doesn’t want to defend against that with its measly 2 MDEF, so keeping the Rhino away is a good idea at the moment.  Both players roll 5 dice.  The attacking player (the Murmerer’s controller) rolls 4 successes and the defending player rolls 2 successes.  The lockdown attack succeeds, but there are no other effects due to the 2 successes that were not defended against.

I chose this method instead of the WarHammer/WarMachine method of only the attacker rolling dice for a couple of reasons.  One is that I simply prefer it.  Two, it’s more interactive.  Klaus Teuber, the designer behind Settlers of Catan, suggested in an interview (that I can’t find at present, sorry for the lack of citation) that games that allow all players to act, no matter whose turn it is, tend to be more interesting and socially involving.  This might be why I prefer the technique.  It seems like the people I’ve played the WoW Minis game with have more fun, too, as they are actively participating in their defense, not just sitting back hoping their opponent doesn’t roll well.

It’s a subtle psychological trick, perhaps, but I think it’s important, especially when you’re dealing with a small group instead of big, impersonal armies.  Rolling your own defense simply makes it more personal and tactile.  It might also make it more annoying to keep track, to be sure, which is one reason why I’m trying to keep the numbers relatively low.  Sure, it’s possible to make an attack have 11 POW or something even bigger, but that winds up to be a lot of dice.  6 feels like a good baseline top end to me, but this is one of those things that really needs a good playtesting shakedown.

Other than that, the card shows a few other things.  One is the “unit specials” box under the unit type line.  Each unit will have something here, some personal quirk, though some may have the same quirks.  The Murmurer is a fairly strong support unit with decent defense (at range, anyway) and a pair of useful defensive abilities:

“may not be delayed” means the Murmurer cannot be given TP by any other unit.  (Time Points that delay its next action, as described in the Keeping Track article.)

“may not be flanked” means the unit does not lose RDEF or MDEF when it’s attacked from its back arc, which is what Flanking usually does.  (An defender loses 1 to MDEF and RDEF against attacks against its back arc.)

Other units might have “(unit) gains +1 POW against Feral units” or “(unit) can draw LOS through any units” or the like.  I’m hoping to make all of these fairly simple and self-explanatory, but useful and/or powerful enough to make each unit valuable and interesting.

This does intersect a little bit with what I’m calling Auras (one of the elements that the Murmurer doesn’t display), which are static abilities that allow a unit to affect the battlefield at all times (the Special box is something that only affects the unit itself instead of a space on the battlefield).  An Aura will take the place of one of a unit’s Actions, but it need not be activated, it’s simply always “on”.  These will usually affect the stats of nearby units, either buffing allies or annoying enemies, though there will be some “utility” Auras with quirky effects, like the Interceptor’s movement-impairing aura that affects every nearby unit.

Then there’s the Value box in the lower right.  This is the point value of the unit, relevant for army building and scoring.  I’ll initially be offering a six-unit team for each breed, balanced by this number.  There’s room for customization, though, and handicapping, which is where this Value will be useful.

There’s also the Absorption mechanic, which is why the last Action has a gold border.  Any unit may absorb an Inert blob.  (A blob that has lost all of its Health is rendered Inert, which means it stays on the battlefield, just a lump of goo that gets in the way.)  If a unit absorbs another unit, it learns its last Action for the duration of the match.  You’d place the absorbed unit’s card under the absorber’s unit card, showing that last Action.  That Rhino Feral unit might wind up with the Murmurer’s ability to delay and heat up a target unit via absorption.  This might also be a big deal in campaigns, where absorbed Actions carry over to the next fight.

…I’m playing with fire a little bit there, potentially giving units “off-breed” abilities (which is one other reason why that last Murmurer Action is a multipurpose tool instead of a stronger simpler one).  I’m not sure that it will work out well, but it fits the flavor of blobs so well that I really want to make it work.  We’ll see, I guess.  There’s just something delightfully appealing about the ability to take the enemy’s resources and bend them to your ends.  I love this about BattleTech and salvaging units, something that was really fun in MechCommander 2, so I’m hoping to capture a bit of that fun with the biological mutability of the ‘blobs.  It might be a “win more” mechanic, but those have value too, in speeding up the endgame.  Absorption is a universal Action, too, so you’d be trading the opportunity to do a native Action for your turn for the potential of a new tool in future turns.  This will require playtesting and experimentation.

Does all of this make sense so far?  I don’t have the rules completely written down yet, and I need to find the best way to explain them concisely, so I’m hoping that these concepts aren’t too crazy.  I’m spending a lot of words here describing what I think are relatively simple mechanics… but sometimes something makes sense in my mind and then doesn’t translate all that well onto the page.  I’d love to hear what you think of any of this.


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