Off to work in the games industry

Oh how I neglet my Livejournal.

As I have already told Google+ and Facebook (as Carl de Visser), and even Twitter (QarldeV), I now have a job with Grinding Gear Games, working on Path of Exile. I will be doing game design, and whatever other tasks come up now they are frantically busy after a closed beta launch.

I start there on 12 September, which means I will be moving to Auckland very soon. I go on holiday to my parent next week (bringing my children), while Babs will organise moving. She was originally going to have a nice quiet week (the holiday was already booked),

I have also started a blog here: where I mostly intend to write about game design and game balance.

I may return and write something here one day, but I have taken quite a liking to Google+ (I actually post stuff there from time to time), and use Twitter for inane hellos (other people are deep and interesting, I just tend to say hello to people I know).

Games and Things

In 2010 I mostly played games with a long horizon of learning, and something resembling a competitive scene.

This was a big deal for me. I found this quite emotionally hard. One attraction with Euros is that it isn't that hard to become quite good at them. Playing a game that is harder to learn, and which punish weakness at the game harshly was hard on my ego, and on whatever image I had of myself as a "player of games".

The three main games I played were Bridge, Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. The last two, I doubt I will ever get that good at, but I enjoy, and the matchmaking and player populations are sufficient that it is easy to play close enjoyable games. I have greater hopes for Bridge, and Babs is also playing (she started the year before me), and the game has impressed me much more than I thought it would. It is deep, interesting, has a very organised large competitive play scene in New Zealand.

I felt 2010 was a much worse year for game design for me. I was good for ideas, and some initial stages of games, but very poor at getting much further than that. Basically the bit that requires effort. This year I want to focus more. The design projects for focus on are Endeavor expansion stuff. A factional dice based board/wargame, and a web game (that web dev stuff, it turns out that is quite hard). I still enjoy designing games wit Jarrat much more than doing stuff alone, but orgnaising both of us to be available for projects at the same time seems more difficult than it used to be.

Other stuff of note, in no particular order:
  • I went eeling with my dad and my boys last weekend, which was awesome.
  • We are currently home schooling the boys, which seems to work quite well for them ,and works well for Babs being stay at home parent/teacher.
  • I am on a game design holiday from work at the moemnt, which is great (even if it is also a go to games at Ian's, see Amanda Palmer live, catch up on chores holiday as well.
  • The rest of my family is currently down south, well I am back in Wellington, as is common, the first couple of days I go, ahh, peace, solitude, I have missed you so. After that, it is, damn I miss my family.
  • My job is interesting and engaging, but hard work, and has been lacking in slack for over a year now. I still work at Each Technology, but have been onsite at Contact Energy for over a year now. I have been to power plants (really interesting), worked with hedge trading systems (not as interesting as I was expecting it to be), and a few other cool things.
  • In 2010 I met several new friends (normally I consider one new good friend a year an excellent success), went to Kiwifoo (really cool, but I can't work out why it is), Teched (Odd, hard to get past the fact that you alwasy feel you are being sold to, despite itneresting elements, the Sidhe internal conference, which  got to talk at, and think I acquited myself quite well.
  • I have bold intentions to blog more than once a year, but you shouldn't count on that.

Distractions (Anno 1404)

Anno 1404

In front of the church there is a statue of Mary. This statue is a special in game meta item you need to achieve various game stuff to unlock. It does nothing gameplay wise, but people in the game world interact with it (specifically with this object the kneel before it).

Next I want to get a Maypole to place in the middle of my hemp fields:

I also have a harbour in desperate need of expansion. I tried to get a shot with a dolphin jumping in the air, but grew impatient. But that swordfish there, it is one of the objects that hangs around in the sea.


It isn't actually the pretty and shiny I play this game for, but it is there when you want it.

Exceptional day

This morning I went to Public Acta. A very worth while event, I wish I had been at the whole thing. I did see much of the document creation at the end of the day online, and I suspect the document posted tomorrow would be something worth signing my name to. I dislike the ACTA treaty on a number of levels, but one of the big ones is I really dislike the idea of secretly negotiated treaties.

I also liked the parallel running of democracy approach to the Public ACTA action. Basically, if you won't give us involvement, we'll make it up ourselves. And we'll do it as smartly and cogently as possible.

In the afternoon I needed to spend time with the kids, both for general, yay its cool and kids need time, but also because Babs would not have survived if I hadn't.

And then, I got to do some actual paid by the hour contract game design stuff. Basically this guy wants a mass market game (or games) to go with his project.

(no subject)

I need a good way to explain Endeavor to people I don't know.

Twice last night someone I know mentioned to someone I don't know about the game, and asked me to explain it.

I don't have a ready answer to that, so when I want to sound enthusiastic about I come across as a bit doubtful.

I need a precanned social answer. Any ideas from friends out there?

Good works

Some quick notes about recent books I have been enjoying:

Not Safe for Work by Emma Hart.

Disclaimer on this one, Emma is a friend, and was kind enough to send a copy (I bribed with a copy of Endeavor, which she was due anyway for proof reading). Excellent essays, and somewhat safer for work than her online essays, that tend to have links to bondage porn (as does her Twitter feed! although she claims that was an accident). In the essays Emma manages to be wry and geek out at the same time, which is a combination I don't think I've seen before.

Mostly mirthful, with a bit of sadness and a whole lot of sexual politics thrown. She also writes much better than I could hope to. I'm not sure there is a klunker of a sentence in the whole thing.

The Praxis(and sequels) by Walter Jon Williams

I've really been enjoying this despite it being in the most annoying genre of them all: aristocrats in space. Sometimes called military scifi there seem to be dozens of these 18th Century aristocrats an barely disguised British fleets, with romance and "real" physics. Despite all the horror that entails, they are actually pretty cool.

Dungeon Master's Guide 2

D&D 4th Edition is an extremely well done tactical combat game. I ran a game earlier this year and enjoyed it a great deal. However DMG2 is mostly about running roleplaying games. So it might actually cause confusion and problems if you tried using it in a D&D4 game, but it is an excellent read about how to run a roleplaying game. Oh, and there are some fun bits about skill checks, traps and designing your own monsters for the tactical dungeon bash bit too.

I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio

Now that I read childrens books a lot I have really started to enjoy the good ones, and really hate the bad ones. Good childrens writers really write immaculate prose. Poor books for children grate very quickly, especially by the twentieth read or so. This book is well written, morbidly fun in a way my 3 year old loves, and the twist hasn't palled with around 30 reads so far.

Endeavor; Anno; Last Stand

I am currently very frustrated that I still don't have my copies of Endeavor. They were being sent through the local distributor. When some of the shipment got damaged he favoured his customers, which makes sense for him, but not for me. So Jarratt and I seem to be some of the few hardcore gamers without a copy of our own game.

Other than that almost all the news on Endeavor is fantastic. It seems to be doing well at Essen at the moment (ranking high on the Fairplay list, sold out at the Z-man booth).

In other news, I had a tooth break last weekend, which is resulting in much expensive dentistry, leaving finances somewhat strained.

My current computer game addiction is Anno 1404 which takes great glee in latching onto any OCD tendencies. It has a campaign with oodles of side quests, unlockables and several types of achievements. The achievements even include interlocking ones, as achievements give you gems which can be used to unlock features, and then there are achievements for unlocking features and then using them in games. And that is all metagame stuff on top of some of the most Byzantine production chains a game could hope to have in the actual game.

The other computer game attracting my attention is Last Stand for Dawn of War 2 which is pure dumb fun, but I may play more of that once I have a team formed for trying to beat all 20 waves.


Advance copies of Endeavor were shipped to Gencon and Wellycon.

The reception from players has been fantastic.

Seeing things like:

"This game has that magical ability to be so straightforward to explain and teach yet deep in its play. I'd not change a single thing. It's a real work of art."
"Just a superior game. Smart mechanics of taking actions, easy to see the strategies yet complex enough to warrant several plays of exploration."

is very cool.

It was great having a copy in Wellington too, it would have seemed really weird seeing all the nice comments, but not having seen it for real.

The production is also exceptional. Extremely pleased at the final product.

Colony One

The next stage of the game project is to get a working prototype for self testing by the end of Monday. That is harsh time frame, in case anyone was unsure. So with that in mind, here are my expanded ideas for the project. This is copied from the corse forums, so you get yet another brief intro, and possibly some odd formatting.

The plan is to work on Colony, which somewhere along the line I have retitled in my head to Colony One.

Posting elements of the game here, as it is a good place as any to record thoughts, and I always appreciate feedback if anyone is kind enough to provide it.

So far I have taken a bit of a kitchen sink idea to the design, throwing in lots of stuff and mechanics. Anything that doesn't work can be jettisoned. Anything that does work, but doesn't really serve the game will be reluctantly placed on the shelf until needed in this game or another.


A set of worker/population markers in a different colour for each player.

Some money chips.

Resource tokens in the following varieties:
  • Volatiles
  • Heavy Metals
  • Alloys
  • Manufactured goods
  • Artifacts
  • Hybrid Technology

Exploration Tiles:
  • 5 Heavy Metals mines, with spaces for 4 Heavy Metals markers
  • 5 Volatiles mines, with spaces for 6 Volatiles markers
  • Story tiles, so that 6 can be mixed in each game, ideally a pool of more than 6, possibly in sets intended to go together. Currently having imagination issues with this, hoping to get a second set and develop more with play.

Colony modules:
A set of tiles available for purchase on Earth, that provide advantages on Colony One. Possibly a mat to go with them that restricts order they can be bought. Could be controlled just by price.

Some tiles to represent loans taken

A Board, with the following features:
  • Turn track, and a track for turn phases (there are currently a lot)
  • A place to put exploration tiles. Not sure yet whether to have a stack, or have a track with story events embedded at set places.
  • Action boxes - much of the game is driven by placing population tokens in action boxes. The ones on the board will be: exploration for 3, exploration for 4, possibly exploration for 5 but this requires a Colony Module, so may be best to use the module instead, an extraction box either one for all types, or one for Heavy Metals and one for Volatiles, a processing box, there may possibly be a political box.
  • An independence track, showing the colonies independence (or lack there of) from Earth Government
  • A turn order track to indicate the turn order of the players

Set up:

Each player takes 6 of their worker markers in front of them, and $10.

The exploration tiles are shuffled and placed on the board, with some set rules regarding the story tiles to time them  coming into play, and what their make-up is.

The Colony Modules are laid out (listed somewhere below or in another post)

The Independence Marker is placed in the middle of the independence track

A population marker of each player is taken from the bank, and placed in a random order on the start track.

Everything else is placed aside in a bank area.

The turn order

The turn consists of three broad parts. The first part is preparing the colony ship for going to Colony One. The second part is the actions on Colony One. The third part is loading up the ship, returning to Earth selling what was gained from Colony One. So each turn represents a round trip between Earth and Colony One.

Part I: Earth

[1] In turn order each player may choose to one of the following:
  • Take a government grant: Gain $4. Move the independence marker towards the government side.
  • Take a loan. Gain $6 and a loan tile.
  • Pay back all your loans - pay $8 for each loan tile.
  • If you have no loan tiles, make a speech for independence of Colony One. Move the independence marker to the Colony Independence side 1 space + 1 space for each Political Point you have + 1 space for each player that has already made a speech this turn.

[2] Change the turn order. The player in last may pay $1 to go to first place. If they do so, then the player in last may do the same. Continue until the player in last chooses not to. Heir position is fixed, start again the player in second to last place, until every place if fixed.

This may take too long for the game, but I'd like to try it. Alternatively a rotating start player may be sufficient, but I suspect there is enough turn order importance to avoid a left/right binding.

[3]In turn order players may purchase a Colony module at the listed price. (Alternatively auction)

[4]The ship travels to Colony One. This is mostly a place holder on the phase chart to show the story element, as in "hey there is a big ship travelling between Earth and Colony One with everyone's stuff on it". Players who have taken habitation modules could take their additional population markers at this time.

Part II: Colony One

In turn order players may place population markers on Action boxes to do stuff. I will mention specific Colony Modules in this step as they are important to how everything plays out. In general a Colony module can be used several times, and by more than one player. While no money transfers between players and the bank in this part of the turn, it may be freely exchanged between players. In fact it would be expected for players to wheel and deal the use of their modules to other players.

The number of spaces on the boxes are likely to not survive initial playtesting and are going to require much fine tuning.

If this makes the game drag too much, or players are too likely to be uncooperative, I might change it to a set fee to use a module of another player, and they have no ability to say no. If this rule is used then it will have to an auction for the Modules in part 1.

  • Exploration. There are two exploration boxes, costing 3 and 4 population each. Using this option gives you an exploration tile, which becomes yours. If a mine, you place cubes on it immediately. Modules that effect - two that reduce the cost by 1 (Rover Garage and Base Station), Orbital Satellite Monitor  which lets you draw two and choose the one you want and one which gives the option of a third box (cost 5). Any number of these can be used for a single explore

  • Extraction. Spaces for 12 population. Place 3 population for  Heavy Metal, or 2 population for one Volatile. You must own the mine, or be allowed to  use it (no doubt at a price). If a negotiated thing, you get to negotiate amine to use before taking the action.  Modules that effect: Mining Laser - take an extra cube when mining either Volatiles or Heavy Metals. Mining Robots - 1 less population cube required for mining Heavy Metals. Reticulated Transport - 1 less population required for mining Volatiles. Deep Core Drill - allows a population marker to be added to Extraction to instead of mining, add 4 Volatile markers to an existing mine.

  • Processing - 4 spaces available. Placing a population marker here allows a Processing Module to be used. An Alloys Processing Plant converts 1 Heavy Metal and 1 Volatile to 1 Alloy. A Goods Factory converts 1 Alloy and 1 Volatile to 1 Colony Good. A Research Station allows 1 Artefact to be produced if you have access to a tile with thee Archaeological Site symbol (Story tiles gained from exploration will have these). A Hybrid Tech Plant converts 1 Artefact and 1 Heavy Metal and 1 Volatile into one Hybrid Tech Good.

  • Political actions. There may be some political actions here. I may decide to only leave then in Part 3 of the turn. I'm a bit softer on how the independence/political element works. Colony Modules that have political bearing: Administration Computer. So far this is the first political module you cna get, and it is worth 1 Political Point. Political points are good for VP, and driving the colony to independence (or maybe away from). Next is the General Store, this is woth a Political Point, and you can place a population marker to get $2 from each other player. Atmospheric Processing Centre, Political Point again and once it is on the colony, the survival phase (at end of Part 2 of the turn) is skipped. Last is the Militia Training Centre, as well as political points, I was wanting players to be able to place population pieces on it as a militia. To reach independence a certain number of population markers need to be placed. Hybrid Tech Goods can be placed as a substitute for population. I haven't got a clear picture of how this works yet.

As I have described all the other Colony Modules in the Part, the others were Habitation Modules, which each provide 2 more population markers for a player.

Once all players have exhausted all the actions they want to do, there is a Survival phase. Each player must pay 1 Volatile, or lose a Population marker.

Part 3 - The Ship Returns to Earth

[1] The ship goes back with all the good produced, except Volatiles. Volatiles cannot be transported so either stay at in a players possession, or so not survive the turn. The latter appeals to me, but may be too harsh. If they don't survive the turn, then there should be a module that lets you keep them.

Goods pay out:

Heavy Metals - $2
Alloys - $5
Colony Goods - $10 (and Independence track moved to independence)
Artefacts - $10 (Independence track moved to Earth Government)
Hybrid Tech Goods - $30 (Independence track moved to independence - but add to required number of militia needed for independence (this suggests they and be used as a weapon))

(Numbers pulled from nowhere, to be changed soon, but should give an idea of progression)

[2] The Independence Track is moved by players with Political points, in the direction of their choosing.

- After some turns, set events, the resolution of either the story tiles or independence, the game ends! Victory points are awarded.