Today I went to Hobbytown in Kennesaw, GA to ask people to try out my game.
First off, a big thanks goes out to Hobbytown for letting me demo Unbound: Endless War there. I truly appreciate it.
Secondly, as much as I like our game (big surprise), I was taken aback by how much people enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and the people who played really got into it. It felt good and it gave me the feeling that not only is this a good game and has a good chance of becoming something larger, but also that this is something that people want.
When we first started putting this game together there were a few things we wanted out of it as a product. We wanted to make a game that didn’t require people to spend money collecting something in order to enhance their game. We wanted it to be something that was accessible to people that couldn’t necessarily risk $40 on something they may not enjoy (God knows I have been there far too often in life). We also wanted something that didn’t require a lot of setup and could be easily carried. From seeing people’s reaction to it today, it lets me know that this is something other people want as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed by things like Warhammer 40K. I was watching a number of really cool cards games being played and I loved the intricacies of all of the abilities and variety. However, seeing the way other people reacted to our game let me know that there is space for us as well, and that felt great.
Even if this thing doesn’t get farther than we are now, I am really proud of this game and I hope anyone else who wants to make their own games can take some inspiration from our work.
A special thanks goes out to Orlando, Anthony and Manuel for letting us take some video.
Thanks again to everyone who has tried our game. I am still working on catching up on the thank you notes.
So we have added our game to WarGameVault.com and the response has been tremendous. So far we have remained on the top 10 hottest games for five days (which is pretty awesome).
Anthony described the game on the site with:
“Unbound: Endless War is a game where you build a map and maneuver your ships to attempt to take over your opponent’s base before they can do the same to you. You place cards to build out the map you engage your opponent on by playing cards face down so you can leave traps or bluff. For example I may surround my base with tiles that are difficult to attack from, or place a hidden explosion hex in the path I think my opponent is going to take to destroy their troops and the nearby hexes.”
This got me to thinking about how to describe this game to people. Whenever I have spoken to people about it I have said a bunch of different things. The problem is, this game does a whole lot with very little. This leads to a lot of ways to describe it.
I have been trying to distill it into a single sentence or a ten second pitch. Here are the different things I have thought of.
“It is a game where you and your opponent build the board.”
“Unbound: Endless War is a game where every move you make has an equal chance of helping or hurting you.”
“Unbound is a 4x board game.”
“This is a game of lies and deception. It is a strategy game where bluffing is just as important as tactics. It is also a game where control of the board comes not from placement, but from knowledge of the battlefield.”
None of these seem to hit the nail on the head, though. If anyone has any thoughts, we would love to hear them.
Also, I am slowly catching up on thank you notes. I am halfway through January and will be writing February’s notes soon.
And for those who are interested, I did not get a second date. So it goes.
Recently, I went out with a rather enchanting and witty woman. I am not sure it went well. I talked too much, I was odd, I overshared and I was awkward. I don’t think it was the worse date she ever had, and hopefully, I will see her again. If she enjoyed herself, then wonderful. If she didn’t, perhaps she will give me the opportunity to redeem myself. And if I never see her again, then c’est la vie
During our conversation, the subject of motivations came up, and she shared how that when she embarks on a project, if it is just for her, it may or may not get finished. However, if she was making something for a friend, it was more likely to get finished.
Such is the same with making games with Anthony. We have been working at this for quite some time. Every time I feel like throwing in the towel, I remember that I do not want to let him down, so I keep at it. He confessed to me that the same is true for him. Our friendship keeps us motivated, as does the friendships for the lady mentioned above.
Having that motivation has been helpful these last few months as I have been putting together copies to send to reviewers in preparation for getting a Kickstarter campaign together.
So, if you ever decide you want to make games, this is what you have to look forward to:
Next are labels. Hopefully Corey finishes those next week.
It took four tries to draw that thing. I kept getting the angles slightly off, but by the time I realized something was wrong, the hexagons started overlapping.
Okay, that is enough pictures for now. I need to get back to writing thank you notes. I am behind on those.
Recently, The New Yorker has published an op-ed from Simon Parkin in which he asks the question “How Evil Should a Video Game Allow You to be?”
In this article, Mr. Parkin brings up the common concern that the consumption of violent or evil-inclusive media will influence the audience to commit violent or evil acts.
He contends that this concern is especially valid due to video games being a participatory medium. Unlike other media, the audience is not watching a character commit the evil, rather, the player is actively engaging in the action being performed (such as genocide in the Civilization series).
For the record, there is no genocide in Civilization that I am aware of. You just conquer the people, not murder all of them.
Yet, are games the only participatory storytelling medium?
Strangely enough, they are not. Movies and television are as well. The difference is that they are not participatory for the audience, rather, it is participatory for the actors, especially those actors who engage in the acting school of method acting.
Method acting is where the actor uses their imagination, emotions and senses to imbue their characters with unique and original behavior. Often the emotional base will come from the actor’s own life, or, in cases where the actor does not have a analogous experience, the actor will pursue the experience so that they can convincingly portray the character.
Sometimes this goes to extremes; rumor has it that Jack Nicholson received ECT for his role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Yet, knowing the lengths that Nicholson will go to for a role, no one is worried that he is going to start chasing down people with a fire axe like Jack Torrance in The Shining. Daniel Day Lewis did a wonderful job portraying Christy Brown in My Left Foot. During filming, Lewis had to be moved around set in a wheelchair and be carried over lighting wires. However, to this day, Lewis has yet to engage in a painting career using only his left foot.
The reason that no one is concerned for people’s safety around Jack Nicholson or that Daniel Day Lewis has not engaged in a career in painting is that they are engaging in make-believe and we recognize that.
Human beings have the ability to differentiate between fantasy from reality. The inability to tell the difference between the two is called psychosis.
In GTA V, there is a scene in which the player character tortures another character. In this scene, the player has to turn the analog sticks on the controller in order to perform the torture. It sounds horrific, because it should be. Personally, I cannot imagine a situation in which I could ethically engage in the torture of another. That being said, I can imagine a situation in which a criminal could ethically justify torture. I can because I have an imagination and I can tell when I am engaging in make believe.
Though the question remains, what affect do these games have on society? Do they normalize violent and evil behavior? Do they desensitize their audience to the horrors inflicted by humankind on humankind?
Unfortunately, I do not know of any credible studies that investigate this question. However, I do know of a study that asks that question of a form a media that often faces similar criticisms: pornography.
Advocates against pornography, such as Wendy and Larry Maltz in “The Porn Trap”, say that pornography is a leading factor in sexual irresponsibility and divorce. Robert Jensen asserts that “pornography does not make men rape… [but] it may activate coercive tendencies”. Since internet porn became widely available in the 1990s in the United States and since then 42 percent of children aged 10 – 17 have viewed internet porn.
With those figures, one would expect strong increases in STDs and sexual assaults, but that has not been the case. According to the CDC, the syphilis rate has fallen 74 percent and the occurrence of gonorrhea has declined by 57 percent. Also, the teen birth rate has dropped by 33 percent and the divorce rate has fallen 23 percent. Lastly, rape and sexual assaults have plunged by 44 percent. This shows a strong negative correlation between the availability of pornography and sexual assaults and STDs.
So, that is pornography, but what of violence (outside of sexual assaults and rapes)? Video games have been with us for quite some time now, and no one is arguing that video games have become less violent. If violence in video games leads to violence in real life, then the crime rate would go up. Instead, while video game sales have gone up since 1990 by 461%, according to the FBI, the violent crime rate has decreased by 25%.
Does this prove conclusively that pornography and violent video games are, in fact, social goods? No, it does not, there may yet be other underlying causes of the decline of sexual assaults and violent crime, however, the preponderance of the evidence so far indicates that these things are, rather than causing harm, are in fact helping.
Seeing this, I would like to address a what-if scenario presented by Mr. Parkin. In his article, he asks whether it would be responsible for a game company to make a game involving having sex with children using motion controls.
Sounds horrible, huh? I cannot say that this is game that I would like to see in a retail setting, but that does not to say that it shouldn’t exist. Having something like this in a therapeutic setting might actually be a good idea. R. Karl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon of Public Safety Canada have found that the recidivism rates for among adult sex offenders to be 14% over a period of five to six years and 24% over periods of 15 years. Video games are already used to treat people with PTSD, so they are no stranger to therapy. If violent video games do give people a safe way to indulge in violence, perhaps giving people who have these urges a safe place to act out these fantasies in a way in which no one gets hurt, will help there be fewer victims of sexual crimes.
That being said, much like the Red Cross, I would like to see more meaningful consequences for violence and for causing harm to innocents in video games, but as the industry and medium continues to mature, I am confident that we will see more complex story-telling.
What is lost in all these arguments, though, is that games are a story-telling art. So, how should evil should video games let you be? As evil as the story requires.
I am happy to announce that people have been not only picking up the game but writing about it. A google search for “hexit strategy”(the old name of the game) turns up two postings:
We’ve also had a good flow of people downloading the print-and-play pdf of the game, with 48 people over the past 30 days. Our biggest source of traffic to the game has been the unbound boardgame geek page.
Our next steps are to make a gameplay video and a digital version of the game to help spread the name a bit more and then early next year start looking at quotes from printers and launch a kickstarter to run a print of the game to get physical copies to people.
So I just watched Breaking Bad.
Ant, if you are reading this, I am not spoiling anything. Just hurry and get caught up already.
I don’t think I have to tell anyone that this show is amazing, but it really shows off the storytelling potential and capability of long form media.
This quality of writing is something that I feel is missing in video games, especially RPGs. (I am also watching Talking Bad right now and Krysten Ritter is still beautiful).
One of the great things in this show is how the stakes progressively get upped. At the beginning of the series, the threat Walt faces is to him alone. Yes, his family would have to deal with the fallout, but it is him alone that is at risk. By the end of the series, Walter getting caught would not only bring him down, but also his wife and his brother-in-law and potentially Madrigal (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing).
Now, take your typical RPG series. First thing, the world is at stake. So, your character goes and saves the world. So what do you do for the sequel? Save the world again!
If the stakes are the same, why do a sequel? The beauty of raising the stakes over time is that the increase in tension keeps the audience engaged and more invested in the story.
I’ve got to hand it to Bioware and Dragon Age 2. They tried to change the stakes in that game by centering it around a single town (I still maintain that Dragon Age 2 is not a bad game, just a bad followup to Dragon Age Origins). It would have been more successful story-wise if the first game had centered around Kirkwall and then Origins with saving Ferelden. So as to not break the story, have the mage revolution having not reached Ferelden by then. (Nevermind about the difference in gameplay style, I am just talking story here).
That’s the thing, I like having the stakes raised in Breaking Bad again and again. In RPGs, this doesn’t seem to happen. From the get go, the player is saving everyone yet a personal investment in the fate of the world on the part of the audience hasn’t had time to develop. In Breaking Bad, the audience cares about the fate of Jesse and Walter Jr. and all of the people around Walter.
That’s what I would like to see in video games. A story that focuses on the small things and builds towards the big stuff. How many tales are about saving the family farm? What if saving the family farm pulls the character into a life of crime or in the military? Then from there the player goes on and takes care of the issues within the military (perhaps saving the world in the process) all in the name of saving the things that the character (and hopefully the player at this point) cares about.
I may come back to this and go into the potential of storytelling in games at a later point, but this episode took my breath away so much that this sprang to mind.
Also, “Jesus, Marie! They’re minerals!”
Since we have put our game Unbound: Endless War up, I have taken to writing a thank you email to each person who downloads the game.
True, I could use a form letter, and, admittedly, a lot of the notes sound the same, but I am actually writing each one individually.
It’s just a thank you note, and nothing more. Of course, if someone responds to one, I will answer back, but my guess is that most people will see it and ignore it. But, hey, if you do read it, know that I actually did write it just for you.
My favorite one I wrote so far was to a gentleman who had a blog posting about making sweet tea. I would put a link here, but since the blog hasn’t updated since 2010, I don’t know if the author wants attention drawn to it. In their thank you note, I shared my own method for making sweet tea. If they read the note, I hope they enjoy the tea.
Whenever renaming something gets discussed, Romeo and Juliet will get brought up. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.
This was not a decision made lightly, especially since we have been calling it Hexit for quite some time.
What really surprised me is the number of people who have come forward to tell us how much they liked the old name more. This was surprising because we have heard so often about how we could do better for a name than Hexit.
Personally, I am happy that they cared enough to complain. Don’t get me wrong, the points that were brought up were good ones and did get talked about extensively, but I have to admit that it was kind of flattering to have people get upset over the name change. It shows that they are invested, which gives me high hopes for this game of ours.
To that end, Anthony and I thought it best to take the time to explain our decision. I realize that some people will still prefer Hexit, but hopefully they will appreciate the reasons behind the change. If you are one of those people and would like to discuss it more, feel free to send me an email and I will be happy to continue the conversation.
So, here are the reasons behind the change.
- The old title made our hexagon based strategy game yet another game involving hexes with the prefix “hex” in the title.
- There is a lot more that is important thematically in the game besides hexes, such as the exploration, the fluid board and, of course, space.
- The title Unbound is more appropriate for us to create a game universe around and provides an opening for flavor text.
- We hope to one day use this game and the things surrounding or associated with this game on other platforms and media, and having “hex” in the title seemed binding. Sure, having books or movies or television shows in the game world is an extreme long shot for us, but us having gotten this far was a long shot. Who knows what the future will bring? Maybe we will get lucky, and we are making plans for if we do (and plans for if we don’t, but it is good to dream).
- We are working on an expansion or two, (multiplayer!), and Unbound: Rebellion or Unbound: Revolution sounded better and seemed to fit more than Hexit: Rebellion or Hexit: Revolution.
Truly, I appreciate everyone’s input. Again, if you still feel strongly about the title Hexit, feel free to contact me.
Thanks to everyone who has shown support for our game.
And if you haven’t played our game, Unbound: Endless War, feel free to download it here. It is pay what you want, even nothing (nothing is fine, we just want you to play).
Sorry to anyone who is seeing this twice, the original post got lost due to some server issues so I’ve had to re-publish it.
So at the beginning of last month we were guests at ConCarolinas. Great time and we’ll definitely have to go again next year. Besides the various panels me and James talked on we also showcased a board game we’ve made currently tentatively titled Hexit Strategy.
The second day of the convention we got several people to play our little game and even had three games going at once! So right now we are looking at few things to do next.
- Looking at thegamecrafter.com or some other source to make a printing of the game.
- Looking into kickstarter or other potential sources of funding for said run(losing 10% between them and finance fees doesn’t seem like the best thing though)
- Working on making a digital version of the game.
- Re-write the rules so they are easier to understand without someone who knows the game explaining them.
That last one I discovered when I had the guy from Bower’s Game Corner review it from our Print & Play pdf.
The digital version has been a little bit slow in part because of exhaustion from the convention and also a bit of craziness going on in personal life. I’m going to be trying to get back to it now though and regularly make progress, update you all here, or ideally both.
On another note if anyone of you out there are good with user interface design, especially if you’ve used Unity3d and NGUI before and would be interested in helping out with Fortunes, please let me know.
What are your favorite conventions? Where should we be going to try and show off/drum up interest in our games either board or video? Let us know in the comments!
Fortunes work has taken an upswing lately. Regular feedback is a huge help and I’ve been lucky enough to have made a friend who is willing to do a pretty good job of giving consistent feedback and poke me about making fortunes updates.
I’ve done a bit of restructuring of the user interface to try and make things like what team you’re on and which score corresponds to which team more obvious(the fact that things like this aren’t apparent are things you lose sight of when you know the game in and out and have been working on it for a long time.) Still need a way to make the different suits of cards clearer but that may have to be up to the final art to convey. Still would be good to be able to convey this somehow other then relying on the art though.
Also added a score summary at the end of hand before the divination screen to give a clearer picture of how you fared.
If you want to see how Fortunes is in its current state, go ahead an go play fortunes.