Archive for Industry News
 Prev « 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 Next » 
W. Eric Martin
• Is game design a genetic trait that passes from generation to generation? No, it's not, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so after viewing the winners of the 2012 Deutscher Spiele Preis. The Brand family made off with the top spots, with Inka and Markus Brand taking first place for Village, which won the Kennespiel des Jahres earlier in 2012, and their children Emely and Lukas Brand winning Deutscher Kinderspiele Preis for Mogel Motte! Here's a pic of the champs from Spielbox:
The winner of the DSP is determined through votes by the public, whether game players, retailers, designers, or those who randomly stumble across the site. Voters submit a list of up to five games, with the top game receiving 5 points, the second one 4 points, etc. The top ten vote-getters for the 2012 DSP were:
1. Village, by Inka and Markus Brand (eggertspiele)
2. Trajan, by Stefan Feld (Ammonit Spiele)
3. Hawaii, by Greg Daigle (Hans im Glück)
4. Ora et Labora, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
5. Helvetia, by Matthias Cramer (Kosmos)
6. Targi, by Andreas Steiger (Kosmos)
7. Kingdom Builder, by Donald X. Vaccarino (Queen Games)
8. Vegas, by Rüdiger Dorn (alea)
9. Africana, by Michael Schacht (ABACUSSPIELE)
10. Santa Cruz, by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle (Hans im Glück)
My guess, based on no inside information, is that the heavyweight trio of Trajan, Hawaii and Ora et Labora split the votes of heavyweight game fans, while Village was the solid middleweight choice and threaded the needle to take the prize. That said, I've played Village more than each of those other three games, so perhaps lots of other voters are just like me and Village landed on the top of their lists naturally.
Schmidt Spiele's publication of Hayato Kisaragi's Grimoire won the "Goldenen Feder" for best rules, and designer Wolfgang Kramer won a special prize for lifetime achievement.
• In other award news, the nominees for the Premio Juego del Año – the game of the year award in Spain – have been announced, and they are:
—Hanabi, by Antoine Bauza (Cocktail Games – Asmodée Ibérica)
—Kingdoms, by Reiner Knizia (Edge)
—La Villa, by Inka and Markus Brand (Ludonova)
—Santiago de Cuba, by Michael Rieneck (Ludonova)
—The Island, by Julian Courtland-Smith (Asmodée Ibérica)
The winner will be announced October 13, 2012. Hope the Brands have more room on the mantle for another trophy...
• French publisher Gigamic reports that Blaise Muller's Quarto! has now sold more than one million copies. That's a lot of wood!
• The Gigamic release Color Pop from Lionel Borg is now playable on Board Game Arena.
• Oliver Kiley blogs on BGG about "modes of thinking" in games – that is, what kind of thoughts, decisions, and considerations players need to make in a game and the associated mental resources needed for those actions – with his three modes of thinking being spatial, economic, and intuitive.
• Boing Boing covers Monopoly: Alan Turing Edition, due out late in 2012 from Winning Moves Games. Best comment in the post: "The real question is: Is this version of Monopoly NP-complete?"
W. Eric Martin
• In its Sept. 5, 2012 Daily Illuminator, Andrew Hackard at U.S. publisher Steve Jackson Games says that the company is blowing through the 23rd printing of Munchkin – 100,000 copies – much faster than it had anticipated thanks to the game's presence on TableTop, in Target, and in the hands of so many pushy fans, so the 24th printing will be boosted to 120,000 copies. In an interview on ICv2, Hackard elaborates further on Munchkin sales: "I don't have the actual year over year percentage increase, but as of the end of July  we have sold almost as many copies as we sold all of last year of Munchkin. The past three or four years particularly have been going up further every year."
• Speaking of TableTop, in a separate interview on ICv2, Days of Wonder's Mark Kaufman goes into some detail as to how Small World's appearance on the first episode of that web series affected sales:
We were surprised at the response rate. We had close to five times the sales that month that we would have had normally and the next month it continued to be extremely high as well. So that was the first part of May  when that first ran and now that we're several months past that, we have reached a run rate that is much higher than it was previously with the Small World game...
It's almost 100% higher than what was. It reinvigorated not only new people but it also got the core people going, "That was really cool. Small World, I like playing it." And that's what brings new people into the hobby.
• U.S. publisher Fundex has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As noted by Rachel Feintzeig in The Wall Street Journal, "The company has $1.5 million in assets and $8.9 million in liabilities to contend with as it works to restructure and is in desperate need of funding, it said in court papers... The company, based in Plainfield, Ind[iana], is seeking court approval to tap cash collateral to keep it afloat as its case plays out. It said it's planning to keep its business operating in the ordinary course but isn't ruling out the idea of selling its assets in bankruptcy."
• On Mechanics & Meeples, blogger Shannon Appelcline examines the core elements of Dominion and whether those elements are part of every deck-building game or something that other deck-building designers and publishers simply lifted due to laziness or false assumptions about what's required in a DBG.
• Designer Lewis Pulsipher tells a horror story in his BGG blog:
Here's the kind of really sad story you can hear sometimes from novice designers. At one of the game design/game publishing seminars at Gen Con, right at the end, someone raised his hand and said he and a group of friends had been working on a game for seven years, and it was a great game, and they had spent over seven years and a million dollars developing it including paying Marvel comic artists to do the art; and how could he get to talk to Fantasy Flight Games about it? The three panelists were taken aback – if I wrote in contemporary style I would say they were "stunned" – and said nothing for a moment. Because there's really nothing to say. These "designers" were in cloud-cuckoo land to spend so much time and money, and their game very likely wasn't particularly good, either.
W. Eric Martin
• On The New Inquiry, in an article titled "No Accidents, Comrade", Jeremy Antley approaches Matthews and Gupta's Twilight Struggle from an interesting academic angle. The opening paragraph:
It is curious that chance and all the chaos it implies became a bedrock component of what it is to be American. From a young age, schoolchildren are told that they can become the president or an astronaut, because only in America do people have the chance to become whatever they want. The market system carries the belief that only chance can guarantee true transactional efficiency and separate innovative wheat from mundane chaff. Interventions that impede working of the "invisible hand" increasingly crowd out the chance new discoveries will be made. Narratives using chance in American culture — the rags-to-riches story, or immigrant emigration story lines — are so prominent, they are often taken for granted. But the illusion of freedom these narratives convey helps conceal the way chance circumscribes experience. Even the phrase land of opportunity carries overtones of chance: Some will make it; others won’t. There is no destiny, only opportunities that one must take advantage of when chance allows.
Later in the piece:
But where fiction generally resists reader alteration, board games take it for granted and depend on it. A fictional narrative remains the same despite how it's interpreted by readers. The underlying expectation in gameplay, however, is that the player actively constructs a narrative and perhaps even modifies the game's rules. Meaning for players comes only through the active process of experiencing play. Operating Twilight Struggle's narrative platform provides a ludic truth — truth through play that gives experiential knowledge using popular, though misleading, historical explanations for the period. It purports to compress the Cold War experience while maintaining some semblance of fidelity to the mentalité of the period, but the chance experienced through gameplay is wed to narrative exposition that clearly embraces a U.S.-centric worldview. Chance narratives help players validate experiential knowledge they acquire during play, but their execution actually inverts the meaning of chance, so that the objective reality behind the Cold War presented in Twilight Struggle becomes illusion. The ideology behind chance is thus recharged through play, validating the American Cold War experience on the basis of an illusionary reality where chance effects are safely circumscribed.
As evident above, the article includes terms like "mentalité", so considered yourself warned.
• Hasbro is looking for game designers. What the publisher is looking for:
Our fast-paced team of design strategists has an immediate need for innovative designers/product developers. In this exciting role, you will combine your global mindset and passion for building and implementing design strategies to deliver market revolutions and best in class brands. Partnering with cross-functional teams (marketing, engineering, packaging, etc.) you will maximize current technologies and trends and leverage best practices to enable the business to meet and/or exceed brand goals.
Your first assignment? Buzzword: The Savvy Marketing Paradigm Game.
• Gaming Chronicles has posted audio files of a five-part interview with Steve Jackson Games' Andrew Hackard "about Munchkin Conan, the Ogre re-imagining, and details about some future releases for the amazing game maker". Why post the interview as five separate files when the files are unlabeled and have no advertising attached to them? I dunno, but that's just what Gaming Chronicles did.
• Attending Spiel 2012 and not sure what to do on Wednesday night before the convention opens? Assuming, of course, that you can't sneak in early to pick up something fresh off the printing rack? Designer Roland Weiniger is involved in Essen Warm-up Day, an event designed for all those in your situation so that you can moan about your sorry state together. Or perhaps play games with one another. Your choice.
• Awesome Dice Blog lives up to its promise of awesomeness by publishing a comparison of d20 dice from GameScience and Chessex in which each die is rolled 10,000 times with the results then examined for true randomness:
If we had a d20 that rolled perfectly, each face would come up 500 times. But of course randomness isn't perfect and we'd expect some deviation: Over the course of 10,000 rolls we'd expect, with 85% confidence, that each face would be within about 33 of 500 — so anywhere from 467 to 533 is within the bounds of randomness. (At 95% confidence the margin of error is 45.) Neither die falls within these bounds.
The Chessex d20 had a standard deviation of 16.13, and the GameScience d20 had a standard deviation of 12.25.
One big caveat on the GameScience die: "the number 14 which [was] rolled vastly less often than it should have". The problem? Non-flush flashing.
W. Eric Martin
• The nominees for the 2012 International Gamers Awards in the "General Strategy" category have been announced, and in alphabetical order they are:
-----• Dungeon Petz, by Vlaada Chvátil (Czech Games Edition)
-----• Eclipse, by Touko Tahkokallio (Lautapelit.fi)
-----• Hawaii, by Greg Daigle (Hans im Glück)
-----• Helvetia, by Matthias Cramer (Kosmos)
-----• Kingdom Builder, by Donald X. Vaccarino (Queen Games)
-----• Last Will, by Vladimir Suchý (Czech Games Edition)
-----• Mage Knight: Board Game, by Vlaada Chvátil (WizKids)
-----• Ora et Labora, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
-----• Prêt-à-Porter, by Ignacy Trzewiczek (Portal Publishing)
-----• Risk Legacy, by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis (Hasbro)
-----• Trajan, by Stefan Feld (Ammonit Spiele)
-----• Village, by Inka and Markus Brand (eggertspiele)
-----• Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
-----• Star Trek: Fleet Captains, by Mike Elliot, Bryan Kinsella and Ethan Pasternack (WizKids)
-----• Summoner Wars: Master Set, by Colby Dauch (Plaid Hat Games)
-----• Targi, by Andreas Steiger (Kosmos)
(Note: I'm on the IGA jury for the general strategy category, but for the second year running I have abstained from submitting a nominee list.)
• And for general commentary on IGA's general strategy nominee list – and game awards in general – I present Dana Stevens' article in Slate from early August 2012 that is specifically about Sight & Sound's once-per-decade list of "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" but applicable to all such lists in any medium:
[W]ill you excuse me if I refrain from joining debates about what does and doesn't belong in the 2012 cinematic pantheon, and take a moment instead to ask: What is the source of the authority we confer on this, or any, list of the "greatest films of all time"?
I'm not saying canonical lists don't have their purposes, and their pleasures.... But there's something in me – and in many cinephiles, I suspect – that chafes at the debates about what titles should go where on the list, who's been shafted and who's been overrecognized. The pomp surrounding the list's release brings out the otherwise extremely latent punk rocker in me: Even though I may agree every film on it is an innovative, significant, and beautiful work – perhaps even among the best in the history of the medium – a part of me can't resist the urge to mock and defile the list itself. I suppose this drive to defile is only the reverse side of an excessive deference to the list – either stance is an affirmation of its ultimate authority. If the unveiling of The List is Moses bringing down the tablets from the Mount, resistance to that unveiling is a dance around the golden calf of anarchic cinematic pleasure. But that dialectical tension between authority and anarchy isn't only played out at the moment of the list's reception – it's present in the construction of the list itself, as each critic's subjective passions do battle with his or her fealty to the notion of establishing and upholding a film canon....
The reason that's most commonly adduced in defense of top 10 lists – that they serve to spark conversations about film – has always struck me as somewhat bogus, because the movie conversations that lists often inspire (Who's up? Who's down? What movies would you put on the list instead, and where?) seem like the least interesting sort to have. Such is the power of the "greatest of all time" list: In order to engage with it in any mode other than dismissal, you must implicitly accept the notion of its validity. It's that feedback loop of respectability that brings out my aforementioned inner punk rocker, juvenilely anti-authoritarian as she may be.
• Emiliano Sciarra's card game Bang! was first published in 2002, and in addition to releasing a deluxe version of the game in 2012 – Bang! 10th Anniversary – publisher dV Giochi is holding a design competition in which players are asked to submit a new character card, with the grand prize being one of each Bang! item currently in print. For contest details, head to the dV Giochi website.
• Designer Wolfgang Kramer is interviewed by Derek Thompson at MeepleTown, and here's an excerpt in which he lays out what makes a game good:
A good game is a game which you play very often. The more often you play it, the better it is. This is valid for simple and complex games. Family games are games in which the children have the same chance to win as the adults. A good gamer's game is a complex game, which you can play with different strategies. The different strategies should have the same chances to win – the odds are even.
• Dennis at Bellwether Games interviews Jesse Catron, designer of Salmon Run from Gryphon Games, a game that combines deck-building with racing:
It was obvious to me from the theme that the game should be a race. I didn't want it to be just quick sprint to the finish like most race games. I needed a way for the game to emulate the struggle and the fatigue of swimming upstream for hundreds of miles. I wanted to reward pacing and timing while punishing recklessness. I needed the game to give players feedback on how they were playing the game and have that affect their future progress in the race. My solution was deck-building. Each player would have their own deck of movement cards. I gave them a choice in how many movement cards they could play from their hand. If they exerted themselves by playing too many movement cards they would gain a Fatigue card which would act to slow them down towards the end of the race. Knowing when to pace oneself and when to exert oneself became vital. This worked remarkably well and provides a nice decision point for gamers and perhaps a lesson in delayed gratification for the young ones.
W. Eric Martin
• Stewart Woods, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Western Australia and a postdoctoral research fellow at Curtin University, has written a book titled Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games, and it's already been released by McFarland Press. Here's an overview of the title from the publisher:
While board games can appear almost primitive in the digital age, eurogames – also known as German-style board games – have increased in popularity in near-concurrence with the rise of video games. Eurogames have simple rules, short playing times and emphasize strategy over luck and conflict. This book examines the form of eurogames, the hobbyist culture that surrounds them, and the way that hobbyists experience the play of such games. It chronicles the evolution of tabletop hobby gaming, explores why hobbyists play eurogames, how players balance the structure of competitive play with the demands of an intimate social gathering, and to what extent the social context of the game encounter shapes the playing experience. Combining history, cultural studies, leisure studies, ludology, and play theory, this innovative work highlights a popular alternative trend in the gaming community.
• Boardgamely is a board game exchange site set up by Adam Thorsen in which users can create a list of owned games that they want to trade – a process that earns them "gold" – then they "buy" games from other users for a price set in gold, in addition to a commission (which bears the name "swap credit"). The game categories on the site match those on BGG. Thorsen launched the site in a beta version in April 2012, and in August he revamped the site based on feedback from users and potential users.
• On Mechanics & Meeples, blogger Shannon Appelcline writes about "the problem of naked aggression", which is not what happens when a pantsless interloper confronts you in the back halls at a game convention, but rather "the ability to wantonly and freely attack another player, to crush their hopes of victory, to see their resources driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women (or men)", to use his words.
• Designer Jason Kotarski and his card game The Great Heartland Hauling Co. were featured on Michigan Live, with the URL for the profile amusingly shortened to "flint_man_creates_truck_driver".
• Someone at Giant Fire Breathing Robot asks whether game quality is decreasing – putting that question in the mouths of others – then answers in the negative:
I think those who argue that there was a "golden era" of gaming are merely remembering a time when they first entered the hobby and everything seemed new and exciting. Or a couple of their favorite games (like Puerto Rico
) happened to come out that year and therefore those years produced "good games" in general.
• Even if game quality is staying at the level of previous years, though, Robert Florence at Rock, Paper Shotgun suggests that you pause to reflect on whether you already have enough games:
When it comes to board games, I have too many. At almost 35 years old, I have about 240 board games. Two hundred and forty. Each of those board games take, on average, about three hours to play. That's seven hundred and twenty hours. It would take me thirty days of my life to play all of those games once, if I had some sort of magical android setting them up for me in a giant room with twenty tables. Thirty days of my life to scratch the surface of all of those games. There comes a point when you have to step back and ask yourself if you are some sort of decadent monster, or a total fucking idiot.
When I was a boy, I had some board games. Some. Maybe seven. One of them was HeroQuest
, and I played that thing to death. I played it so much that I had to create new dungeons and new cards myself to keep it fresh. At no point did I ever think to myself "Man! I really need some other dungeon crawling game that's almost identical to this one except from a few new little mechanics." At no point did I think "I wish someone would crowd-fund a second edition of this game with nicer artwork. I would totally back that!" I was happy with what I had. I didn’t need anything else. I saw worlds inside that box.
What happened to me? What happened to us?
Well for one thing, I make a lot more money than I did when I was ten...
A new round-up of news from Italy! Some news from Italian companies – such as Ares Games (BGGN link) and dV Giochi (BGGN link) – has already been covered in this space, so I'm going for something really new.
DaS Production: Yummell
DaS Production, an old Italian company from Florence, has announced the September 2012 release of Yummell, a game about fantasy races racing in the ironic fantasy world of Kfoorp, which was created and illustrated by Paolo Chiari, also known as Quercelfo (which in Italian means something like "Oak Elf").
Yummell, designed by Alessandro Ivanoff and Massimo Chiari, includes eight different fantasy races, and each player has a different character to use and a special random advantage. To win the race, you need to run, fly, or use magical powers – or perhaps a mix of all three.
Game board tile, one of the races, and an advantage card
The real engine of the game is a 90-card deck with creatures, events and artifacts that can be used during the game to provide various advantages for you or stumbling blocks for opponents.
Yummell is for 2-8 players, ages 12+, with a playing time of 45 minutes. All of the game components are bilingual in Italian and English, but the box will include only Italian rules, with English rules to be available as a download on the Yummell website.
In fact, the Italian rules (PDF) are already available online, and I plan to write a detailed preview soon as I recently received a preview copy of the game.
ILSA Magazine: Rudiger Dorn Issue
ILSA Magazine #17 will be soon online, first the .epub version via Amazon and Lulu, then a free PDF version on the ILSA website.
This special issue includes an interview with Rüdiger Dorn for The Art of Design interview series I've been conducting. (This interview is also available on OpinionatedGamers.com.)
Magnifico: Da Vinci's Art of War
Spartaco Albertarelli, designer of Magnifico, Dust and other titles, has announced that he's working on a tablet version of Magnifico with a group of experts, including some professors of the Milan Politecnico.
A Facebook page now exists for Da Vinci's Art of War, as the game is being called, and Spartaco's personal blog should have information about the app as well.
WePlay: GetGamers App
Since I've been involved in the creation of the GetGamers app from WePlay almost from the beginning, here's a designer diary of sorts about this app.
While talking with some friends from Modena about gamer communities and associations, we realized that there are many more gamers around than we initially realized, with these gamers being reachable through forums, online resources, and associations. The problem, however, is that sometimes these people live relatively close to one another and share the same interests, but they're unaware that the other party exists.
We started to research on the net for a resource or site specifically for gamers that could help, but we discovered only that the problem was much bigger than we had been thinking. We found lots of threads with requests along these lines: "Are there any gamers in my area?", "I'm looking for people in my town for a game session.", "Do you know associations/clubs near [town name].", "I'm on holiday in Rome. Can someone help me find games shops, gamers and associations for a evening game session?"
So we decided to think about a possible solution, specifically about an app since smart phones and tablets are, day by day, ever more common. We are not app designers, however, so we searched for a company that would be able to fulfill such a project. It would likely be really expensive, but we decided to try.
Of course to do this, we needed to make a plan to (hopefully) cover some of the costs and create something that could survive in the years ahead.
-----• First, we decided it had to be a geolocalized app since the main idea is to find people close to you.
-----• Second, the app needed to be widespread to work well, so we wanted to have a free version with almost all of the functions as well as an inexpensive version.
-----• Third, we needed to include associations, shops, and publishers, so we decided to design a special PLACE add-on.
-----• Fourth, it needed to be useful for gamers, so we would try to integrate it with Twitter, Facebook, BGG, and Game Center.
With this plan, we started to press the developer to have a working release before summer to have the time to contact clubs/associations and give them a free PLACE version ahead of the major release at the start of September after fixing bugs.
This has been an hard project! Developing something that you are not able to develop yourself is not easy, and making non-gamers design something for gamers is also really hard. If you plan to design an app for gamers, think a lot about that!
The main idea throughout the project was to create something that we could be proud of, since – as we've written on the WePlay website:
WePlay is a company founded by a group of gamers with the aim to offer products of interest for gamers. We are not looking for money, but we want to get as many Prestige Points as possible. In the "game of life" money is just a medium, but Prestige Points are VP.
The free version of the GetGamers iOS app is now available, as is a version of the app for Android. We are still offering the PLACE add-on for free to all gamer associations that contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com), both to assist the gamer associations themselves and to help the app spread and become known.
We are still awaiting the 1.0.1 release in September 2012 that should fix most of the problems/issues to date, and we hope to have done something really useful for gamers and, perhaps some day, to get back some of the money spent...
W. Eric Martin
• Geof Gambill has posted the latest episode of his podcast The Long View, and since I'm the guest being interviewed, I thought it would behoove me to post about it here since it's not every day you can listen to me talk for more than two hours on the wondrous game of Innovation as well as "game fatigue, trends in the hobby, and 'game snobbery'". Well, now that the podcast is available, you can indeed listen to me blab for more than two hours about such things. I'm sure you've been waiting for just this day.
• Gen Con 2012 took place August 16-19 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the convention boasted "a turnstile attendance record of 134,775, including more than 41,000 unique attendees", according to a press release from Gen Con LLC media contact Stacia Kirby. More details from the press release:
Unique 2012 show attendance rose more than 12% over last year’s prior attendance record, propelled by significant increases to pre-show badge sales and on-site growth in Sunday’s Family Fun Day attendance. Overall, the show has grown in attendance approximately 30% since Gen Con Indy 2010. Turnstile growth for the weekend also was up 9% from last year’s prior record of 119,000 plus weekend attendees. Gen Con’s pre-show Trade Day also expanded, including 232 retailers attending the event, in addition to the growing numbers of educators and librarians that participated in the tracked pre-show program.
• Mental Floss, that paragon of bathroom reading material, has highlighted eleven game-inspired cakes, many of which look thoroughly unappetizing but some of which look cool as house decorations – at least for a few days.
• Gary Ray at Black Diamond Games looks at Kickstarter and asks whether the site is "expanding the pie" or shifting sales around in a zero sum game. His conclusion? Inconclusive.
• Here's something of an oddball item: Beth Heile, interviewer of designers and publishers at Spiel 2011, and John Knoerzer have recorded a video reviewing Agent P's World Showcase Adventure, an interactive game located at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World.
W. Eric Martin
• Board Game Muse has a short interview with designer Régis Bonnessée about his game Seasons – debuting at Gen Con 2012 – and his other interests.
• Daniel Tack at Forbes.com writes about Gary Games' SolForge, showing multiple (preliminary) screenshots and explaining the game in a bit more detail. I had no idea that Forbes had someone writing about online gaming, collectible card games, and tabletop games...
• Erik Wecks at Wired's Geekdad marvels at Target's recent gaming coups – exclusivity for Star Trek: Catan, and a game cross-promotion deal with Geek & Sundry – and urges local game stores to up their game to survive and even profit from such happenings.
• Adam August at Kicktraq provides a few stats on board and card game Kickstarter projects, focusing on the growth of both backers and pledges in 2012 when compared to 2011:
• On his GamerChris blog, Chris Norwood tries to pin down the difference between board games and other media, focusing on whether they're active or passive media and how that relates to both the user experience and the requirements for critical analysis of the works. A long excerpt:
In more or less all other media (even including many videogames, considering their mostly linear format) the underlying idea is that one "author" creates something that is then received/consumed by other individuals. The author has a great deal of control over how the medium is received, the message that is delivered, and ultimately, the experience that is created. And in most cases, the "consumer" interacts with the medium more or less alone (even if they sort of "share" their experience with others by sitting near them or talking about it after the fact). And perhaps the biggest point of contrast to me is that the consumer of passive media has no real option to make a choice about the content of the media or to experience anything different than from what the author has pre-loaded into the work.
The nature of criticism for these "passive" types of media, therefore, tends to focus mostly on the substance of the message delivered by the work, rather than on the "mechanics" of the delivery method. Now certainly, story structure, diction, tone, and other structural elements of how the work was delivered do come into play. But by and large, the bulk of literary and film criticism is much more about discussing the work's message, its relevance to the society in which it was made, its relation to previous works, what experience in the author's life led to it, and other such socio-political issues.
But boardgames are very different. With rare exception, games are meant to be shared, interactive experiences. And one hallmark of modern boardgames is player agency, where the participants are given choices that have a real impact on the outcome of the game. So while a game designer may have a general intent for how a game should develop, the specifics of any one particular play are greatly dependent on the choices of the players involved in it.
Therefore, the most important element of boardgame criticism must be to focus on the mechanical aspects of the game. While the core element of a work in pretty much any other medium is the message that is being conveyed, the core of a boardgame is the system of mechanics constructed by the designer. And even if there is a theme, tone, or message that the designer wants to invoke or portray in some manner, it still comes down to how well the mechanics of the game actually get that message across.
Lots to unpack in this excerpt and the post as a whole, and I disagree with almost all of it, but I'm busting tail to prep for Gen Con, so I'll leave this as a "No, Chris! Bad Chris! No cookie!" and let you all have at it for now.
• From the YouTube description of this Olde Payphone video: "Some people take Catchphrase way too seriously." NSFW. No, really.
(HT: The Dish)
W. Eric Martin
• In a late July 2012 BGGN post about a Kickstarter project for Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot – Deluxe Edition, I noted that "Kickstarter apparently no longer allows for project reward levels aimed at retailers" as project creator/publisher Playroom Entertainment added this note to its project on July 26, 2012:
Playroom loves our retailers and we know that the success of Killer Bunnies wouldn't be possible without them. Unfortunately, we were forced to remove the Retailer Level by Kickstarter (at approx. 9am on 7/26) because it violates their newly implemented rule of not allowing "discounted bulk pricing" at a wholesale level for retailers. We are very upset about this, but we have to play by the rules. If you are upset too, please take it up directly with Kickstarter.
Milton Griepp at ICv2 posted a follow-up item with Playroom's Dan Rowen as to how the company became aware of the problem. On the retail side of things, someone at Imperial Outpost Games in Glendale, Arizona recounts how digital PDFs for role-playing games had previously shut out retailers and how he had discovered the pluses of Kickstarter, which took a different approach. Now, though:
Now Kickstarter comes along and tells the publisher that it can no longer offer retailer levels or "bulk discounts". *insert sound of a car hitting a wall at 100 mph*. Wut? All of a sudden now, I'm being cut out of the loop AGAIN. Now, with the pdf thing, there were some huge logistical hurdles there keeping retailers out of the loop, it wasn't JUST a "money thing".
This TOTALLY is just a "money thing".
On August 2, 2012, Yancey Strickler at Kickstarter clarified that it didn't really mean no bulk discounts – just no large bulk discounts:
As of today, we're defining "bulk quantity" as a reward that offers more than ten of a single item. We feel that a limit of ten will prevent bulk commercial transactions while still allowing independent stores (the most frequent backers of these rewards) to back projects and share them with their communities. Projects are welcome to offer rewards intended for stores so long as they are in quantities of ten or less.
Backing a project has always been about joining a community just as much as it is getting stuff. That's one of Kickstarter's defining traits, and we want that to always be true. We're incredibly proud of the ways that Kickstarter has helped creators bring their work to life and get it out into the world. Watching independent stores use Kickstarter to promote the work of independent creators has been amazing, and we hope it continues.
So, crisis averted? Well, not for this commenter from retail shop Black Diamond Games, who has found that retail backing levels haven't paid off:
Although I like supporting the indie guys, it doesn't make sense for me. Despite some huge Kickstarter support numbers, the average game store customer really doesn't care about these projects. These things appear to appeal to the gamer elite, the alphas, the lapsed gamer, and those whose tastes have transcended the mainstream. I sell mainstream, because that's how the rent gets paid, despite yearning for the elite....
The problem with the established publishers is there is no lag time between supporters receiving their goods and distributors. So why buy in at 12 copies on Kickstarter when the distributors will have it three days later? That's exactly what happened with the last product I supported. I would have ordered 2-3 copies from the distributors, but ordered far more than that because I wanted in.
So Kickstarters are not designed for retailers. There is no implied value proposition aimed at us, no promises, only a bone thrown in the corner allowing us to sit at the table. We are appeased by receiving the opportunity to participate, and I do appreciate that, but that doesn't mean we should be involved. There are better uses of our resources than gnawing on that old bone.
• And in other crowdfunding news, Indiegogo is opening a German division and looking to hire. Any gamers interested? (HT: kreikkaturkulainen)
• Patricia Vollmer at Wired highlights upcoming crossover games from Hasbro that use a thematic whitewash from Zynga's online games Farmville, Cityville and Words With Friends.
• Brian Maggio at Global Toy News asks whether we're witnessing the death of the "price point", that being a series of specific price tiers such as $15, $20, $25, etc. From the article:
Regardless of the cost/value relationship or the build that had gone into a product, all sales presentations had to align with predetermined price points. "Is that a $14.99 or a $19.99 product?" was a common question that a buyer would pose to the salesperson. (To which I was occasionally tempted to reply, "Well, this one is actually a $17.64 product because of the extra little doo-dad here...") Manufacturers then had to dumb down the product to hit a key wholesale, or build it up somehow to justify the next higher price point.
Then, about a year ago, I heard several manufacturers take the bold stance: We are going to set the wholesale at a level that actually allows for a profit, and let the retailer figure out how to price it.
More of a mainstream issue than something that affects hobby gamers, I suppose, but I think this move could be viewed as akin to how the New York Stock Exchange switched from fractional to decimal stock prices in 2000/2001. The goal of both is to present the potential buyer with a more accurate price while allowing the seller to account for an item's true cost.
W. Eric Martin
• Eric Franklin, Asmodee demo monkey, writes about how he prepares to demo games at Gen Con. (I'll mention in passing that I've spent the past couple of days pushing publishers for updates to the Gen Con 2012 Preview, and I'm still adding information as I receive it. If you're a designer or publisher with things to add, please write me at wericmartin AT gmail.com.)
• On Global Toy News, Richard Gottlieb asks "3D Printing – are we near the tipping point?" Not a terribly informative post and it features annoying sidebar ads, but this is still something for publishers, designers and gamers to think about for the future. Selling blueprints and rules for at-home game creation is a definite possibility just a few years from now. For now, though, designers and gamers will have to be content picking up game parts from places like SpielMaterial or the newly launched in July 2012 nestorbits.
• Until easy home-based parts production comes about, designers will have to contend with making their own prototypes. In an article on Opinionated Gamers that uses his upcoming Suburbia for examples, designer/publisher Ted Alspach shows off his methods and (many) tools for "Professional-looking Prototype Creation".
• Trent from The Board Game Family talks up the merits of renting games and teases those of us who don't have a decent game store nearby that offers this service – which would be most of us, I imagine.
• In June 2012, as noted on BGGN, two fans of Strat-O-Matic Baseball set a new Guinness World Record for longest marathon playing of a board game. Now Scotland gamers Ben Miller, Sean McFarlane, Duncan Conner and Christian Olsson are trying to break that record, and their game of choice is Small World. They started on August 1, 2012, and the site of the record-breaking attempt – the Bus Stop Toy Shop – is posting updates on its Facebook page. The gaming session is being broadcast live on Ustream, and it's also serving as a fund-raiser for Children's Hospice Association Scotland.
• Okay, this post is somewhat off-topic as it relates to games – and yet it's not as I find errors in nearly every rulebook I read, not to mention rules that are incomplete or unclear. Why is it important to have well-written rulebooks? Kyle Wiens makes the case in an article titled "I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here's Why." in Harvard Business Review:
[G]rammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn't make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell the difference between their, there, and they're...
If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use "it's,"
then that's not a learning curve I'm comfortable with
Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.
When I read a sloppy rulebook, I immediately wonder how much care and attention was put into the game itself. (By chance, I just ran across my 2009 review of Bonnie and Clyde in which I make this exact point.) I'm less trusting of the publisher and any development work done on the game because if you can't get the small details of writing correct – details for which standards exist, details that can be tested by getting others to play your game blindly – what does that suggest about your ability to solve the larger issues of clarity in game play?
(For those who find such issues too mind-numbing to care about, I'll throw you a bone by pointing out that the URL for the article above is shortened to "i_wont_hire_people_who_use_poo".)
 Prev « 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 Next »