Tag Archives: game design

Write – Design – Program: 1 Year in Games

July 25th, 2017, marked a year since I finished 5 years of teaching in Japan and began working full-time in the games industry. That’s 1 year in games! It’s been an up and down ride, but I’ve learned so much. Here are some of my reflections.

Write - Design - Program
Write – Design – Program

Once Upon a Career Crisis
In 2011 my wife and I left for Japan. I didn’t like the route my career was taking—working predominantly in web design. I felt I could do more elsewhere, and wanted out. Five years later I walked out of the classroom and into the games industry.

Go. Go Now
I started Rising Phoenix Games on the last day of 2010. Over the next five years, in my free moments, I worked hard to learn my craft and build the company. When I realized there was only so much I could learn on my own I started freelancing, which taught me loads more, but also brought new opportunities my way. None of that would have been possible without the five plus years of banging on my craft.

Starting and starting early was critical.

Incarnate Hybrid Class Cover

Build a Runway
Jake Birkett (Grey Alien Games) mentions this principle in his GDC talk, How to Survive in Gamedev for Eleven Years Without a Hit. A runway—or savings—helps you weather the time between project launches. I’m not a big drinker, never smoked, and love a bargain, so was able to step away from my last job with enough money to see me through till sales came in. There were sleepless nights, but it really helped. I still relish the opportunity to save, and am busy installing a rain water tank to cut down on our utility bill.

More Money Saved = More Money for Game Dev.

We had this slogan at the summer camp I worked at: “TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.” Cheesy, but true. Partnering up has, in every instance, taken me further than I could have gone by myself.

Because of this, being a team player is important. Time is short, and people want to work with someone they know has their back and will deliver.

Together Everyone Achieves More.

I aim to stay in the games industry,  one, five, ten years and longer. Write – Design – Program is part of that, because this series is all about sharing insights. If you’re working in games, tell us what’s working for you.

Rodney Sloan is a game design, writer, and programmer at Rising Phoenix Games, a line developer for Steampunk Musha at Fat Goblin Games, and a freelancer. You can find him on Twitter.

Imagination by Design

Are video games killing our imagination?

Imagination by Design

Berin Kinsman of Asparagus Jumpsuit, when talking about creativity in our play experiences, wrote on his blog, that
“The thing I like most about tabletop roleplaying games, and the reason I’m not overly fond of video games, is that aspect of creativity and imagination…”. In other words, the great thing about roleplaying is that we can freely create and imagine, creating our own play experience. On the other hand, we can’t get this same creative freedom in video games.

Video games have to deal with a number of limitations. To work, they are designed and created to be a complete whole that fits within those limitations. The story, characters, setting, graphics, available actions and even the possible endings are all set. There isn’t room for more, and the players’ imagination is usually bound up within that whole. Play Batman: Arkham Origins and you’ll spend your time imagining that you’re Batman. Play any First Person Shooter and your imagination will be bound to the paradigm of the FPS.

Is this something we can solve with clever design? Can we design for the imagination?

Berin mentioned LEGO in his post, and the comparison with Markus Persson’s Minecraft is an obvious one to make. Minecraft is fun because the player creates, and when we create our imaginations go into overdrive.

That’s the key, create gaps for the player to fill.

Create + Activity = Creativity

But we don’t need to build games about building. We just need to make those fill-able spaces. The character in silhouette, who we never learn much about. The evil tower on a faraway hill that we never get to visit. The coin in our pocket that we started the game with. The things we hear moving around under the floor boards. These all help to engage our imaginations on some level.

What do you think? This topic certainly has a lot of depth. Leave a comment and let’s talk about it.

Showing off your TCG

Japan has some great ideas when it comes to card games, with games like Yugioh, Pokemon and Vanguard being super popular all over the world. Here’s an idea for showcasing a new TG game that caught my attention. The game is called “Zillions of enemy X” or ZX, which sounds a little like “sex” when you say it in Japanese.

It’s my first YouTube vid, so please be kind.

You can find out more about the game at www.zxtcg.com (Japanese only).


Inspired in Japan


Claustrophobia! – New Advancement Rules

I’ve been working on the experience and advancement system for Claustrophobia! The original game didn’t have rules for XP because I figured gnomes would die before they had a chance to level, or that sessions would be once off affairs. After play-testing and thinking about it more, I figured it was necessary and an important way to award players for creating an entertaining story.

In designing the system there were some specific considerations. The system needs to reward players for the following:

  1. Entertaining role-play.
  2. Interesting, dramatic or creative character death scenes.
  3. Creative use of a gnome’s name in play.
  4. Creative use of a gnome’s gear.
  5. Completing missions, overcoming challenges and defeating monsters (the bread and butter stuff).

I didn’t want a clunky system with loads of tables and calculations, like the rest of the game it had to be rules light and easy to run. Also, since gnomes should always be expendable, I wanted to award the player, rather than the character. Some games that stood out to me for their experience systems are the Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game and the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, which I recently picked up, so I drew inspiration from them in part too.


Trophies of Triumph

For the Beta I decided on a simple awards system, with award recipients decided by group voting. Players have four awards to give out and, like in Mouse Guard, need to give them to different players. If there are fewer players than awards then awards are dropped from the list until there is one award per player.

The Golden Gnome: given to the best role-player or the person who delivered the most interesting scene using their character and the circumstances before them.

Drama Queen: given to the player with the most entertaining death scene.

I Name Thee…: given to the player with the most creative use of a name during the session.

I Never Leave Home Without It: given to the player with the most interesting use of gear during the session.

Players who win an award get 2 experience points. Each player also gets one further point for each scene in which they faced danger. Once six points are accumulated, the player can increase one sphere by one point or gain two health. Sphere scores cannot be increased above 5 or a total of 14 between the three spheres of Social, Mental and Physical.

Lastly, when a gnome dies, the player can take half of its total XP, rounded down, to create a new character. This represents crew members of the HMS Keeton rising up through the ranks to take their place in the spot light.

What do you think about this simple system? Any ideas or comments, please let us know!