Monday, December 29, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Art of Mocking

There is something inherently tedious about making a mock up. It's really nothing but monkey work that no one ultimately appreciates because they're busy trying to tear it apart.

Which is good, you want them to tear it apart. Rip it limb from limb so that they can find all the flaws. It's just really hard because you spent a lot of time on it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Alpha Set is finished

That albatross around my neck is finally hanging by a thread holding the Sword of Damoclese over my stomach.

So that was a little over the metaphore. Let me explain.

I've been working for about 2 years on a projected called the DCG. The Downloadable Card Game. There have been many ups and downs, because despite what a lot of other people say this is a paradigm shift in regards to doing a large format card game. There have been some movement in that direction since I started this (FFG turning Game of Thrones into a Living Card Game, but that may have as much to do with the fact that they're running out of new books and don't really want to deal with it as much as anything else) but nothing really goes as far as what I'm trying to do. When you do that by yourself it takes some time to do.

Now I've got 230 cards done for the Alpha test for Factions, my DCG, and I need to test it. This is the finishing kick and I hope to get this out to the general public before Gen Con next year. I've got to keep that in mind, August '09.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Interviews - Living Dice

Hey folks.

I did a short but sweet interview for Living Dice! You can check it out over at


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 5 - Fan Expo

This con, for gaming at any rate, is a joke.

A big, fat, stinking joke and it was on anyone involved with the Hobby Gaming Industry (as opposed to the Electronic Gaming Industry). You see, Fan Expo is a convention that caters to a lot of people. It's got Anime fans, SF fans, Comic Book fans, Horror fans and finally Gaming fans. I put our industry last because that's exactly where they put us. Seriously, we were in the armpit of the convention centre.

To give you a brief description:

We were in a featureless room, with no signage, behind the guest of honor autograph area and next to the dark video game corner. The only entrance that bothered to open onto us had VIP entrance over top of it all weekend.

Quotes of the convention:

"I found you because I went looking for a bathroom."
"I didn't go there because it was the DARK VIDEO GAME corner."
"This looks like a place I shouldn't be going."

If I had paid for this I would have been screaming from the beginning of the con until the end of it. I wouldn't have stopped yelling until they either gave me my money back or given me something for my money because it was awful.

Zero foot traffic, a hassle when I tried to roll with the situation and make something positive out of it. It was perhaps the worst con I've ever been at.

Now this isn't a slight against the guy who organized it. Justin did his best to try to make sure we got what we needed and to get those who he works for to listen to us, but at best the brushed him off at worst the ignored him. He tried his best, it's not his fault that we've dropped to beyond after thought.

With this con it's never a case of "if something goes wrong" it's a "when something goes wrong." Last year none of the gaming guests were listed and none of my events were posted. This year none of my events were posted and we had to deal with the location from hell.

The only reason why I bother is that it's free, and even then I wonder if I overpaid this year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 4 ... Gen Con ... the rest

Well, it's been a little too long to remember all the pertinent details of Gen Con now. Only the big events stood out. So instead of giving them to you on a day per day basis, let me throw them at you numerically.

1. There was an awesome demo of Run For Your Life Candyman.

When you do demos where you try to be animated you run into three groups. The first group wants none of it and will never participate no matter what. The second group gets that it's okay to be all chanty and tribal (because yelling "Rip it off" is always fun) and they get into it by the end of the demo. The third group dives in head first and never looks back.

I had a table filled with the third group. We had chants of "Rip it off/out" going whenever someone lost a piece. "Cage Match!" when cage matches were started. We booed when there was little mayhem and screamed "Grudge match" when it old rival went at it again. We had one guy who sat there and started four cage matches in a row. I had to start a "King of Cage" chant for him.

I don't know what inspired me to do this, but about thirty minutes after the moment of silence for Gary Gygax The King of Cage got knocked out of the game. For some reason, I stood up and said the following:

"Everyone please stand ... a moment of silence for the King of Cage .... ... .. Thank you."

It was great.

2. Seeing Jess and her family.

Jess Hartley is an amazing person and I'd call her a pretty damn good friend who, despite knowing me for a pretty short time, is more than willing to chat and give me swift kick in the arse when needed. ^_^

I got to hang out with her, though usually we ended up crossing paths at around 2:00 am, and her family who are also awesome.

3. Seeing people I don't usually get to see, and meeting the people they know.

My friend Jamie showed up, because he lives in Chicago and it's a lot less far from Indianapolis than Toronto is. He had his friends and they were lots of fun to be around. I got to play some of the old Cyberpunk CCG with Jamie and his crazy decks.

Also hanging out and helping Curt from Smirk and Dagger games and seeing the Slug crew totally makes it all worth it.

4. Annoying the heck out of the Adventure Games booth.

Seriously folks, the first time you hear the exact change dance it's funny. The second time amusing, the third time it's annoying and every point beyond that makes you want to fly into a murderous rage. It's personally how I feel about Munchkin and since SJG is in that collection I'm not too sure that it's that much of a coincidence.

5. Awesome games of CyberGen

I managed to get two really good games of CyberGen off the ground. Dark and Stormy went off wonderfully as it could have gone and we got some really good players and some people really into the game. We also had some people who recognized me after we ran the intro game which is also awesome.

That's pretty much the highlights of the weekend. It's more than 3 weeks late, but better than never.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 3 ... Gen Con Intro and Day 1

Now let me state the fact the right now I'm not a big fan of Gen Con. The past few years have made whatever sheen it had fall to the wayside to be replaced by the large head of profit and corporatocracy. Last year in particular was bad because pretty much nothing was where it said it was going to be, and goodness help you if you had a game after the HQs closed. Then you had no idea if there was a change.

This year, something happened. There must have been something different, someone actually in charge but ... everything was where they said it was going to be. The way I got my badges was efficient and professionally handled, and we didn't have security every ten feet checking to make sure that we were paying customers. It was actually somewhat enjoyable this year, which is a big step up.

Now the main reason why I busted my butt to get there was for the simple fact that I had a Suitors game that had 25 people signed up. Seriously, 25 people. That was mind blowing. I had only had Cyberpunk games sell out on me. However, I'll get back to this later. Let me do a quick day by day run down of what happened on Jonathan's magical trip to Gen Con.

Day 1 - Wednesday.

First of all, I thought I was leaving Wednesday night at say around 23:00. Instead I found out a few days before that we were leaving Wednesday morning, at say around 4:00. Thankfully I was able to get the time off of work to do this, I do love my day job that pays the bills, and we ended up having a grand old time on the drive down. Nothing too spectacular there, other than the Catalyst Studio folk being awesome, and the inevitable border cross.

Crossing the border is always interesting, I've done it tons of times but it never actually gets any easier. We did our little coaching ahead of time (Remember to say SF con, they think gaming means gambling) and stopped at the Duty Free shop to buy some alcohol for those less fortunate souls south of the border.*

When we got to the actual customs officer we didn't get asked about the booze at all. Instead we were given the Canadian Pop Quiz, which I won by knowing that Calixa Lavallee wrote the Canadian National Anthem. I was also the only one in the car who knew it, which was amusing since I was told later that when they heard that question everyone thought that we were going to get pulled over.

We got to Indianapolis after much issues with the GPS we were using, it brought us through Detroit ... seriously, and I sat down and waited for the GM HQ booth to open to get my badge. Ran into a whole pile of people I knew, in particular the Slug Fest Crew, and got to watch a bunch of people try to get their badges through sheer force of will. Nothing too stupid, but when the guy with the "I'm in charge" badge asks you to fill out the form, you fill it out and thank them for not losing your badge.

Finally I made it to the hotel where the SFC were at and hung out there for a bit until Curt, from Smirk and Dagger Games, showed up with a great story. I'll let him tell it, poaching stories is ultimately bad form, but in the end it landed us a Penthouse in the Embassy. Pretty freakin' awesome.

Now I'm going to cut this up, so next update is day 2.

1. Note, I don't drink. However, being Canadian still gives me the right to make alcohol jokes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 2 ... Dex Con

I know it's not soon, but it isn't as if anyone really reads this so the update came just at the right time.

Origins was fun, with a lot of really good food to be had. I really loved the North Market,
which for those who live in Toronto is like walking into St. Lawrence Market, because it provided me with an easy place to eat good food.

Now I get to talk about one of the better networking cons in the North East. Seriously, if you're a small to medium game publisher or designer you need to do your best to get down here. I'm talking about Dex Con.

A little bit of history. I started going to Dex Con, one of the many Double Exposure events that are held during the year, in 2004. It's one of the most fun places I've ever been to. It's the biggest pajama party on the planet. It has food events, which means lots of sugar and chocolate fondue. The people there are just the type of people you want to have playtest your games because they've all playtested games and don't hesitate to tell you if something you did is crap, no matter how much they like you.

This year was no different. We went, we had a blast and then we made our way home.

Highlights of the night.

1. Suitors tournaments actually going off

I've had some problems with this in the past. I run Suitors tournaments and no one shows up. I understand there's a little lack of exposure, but sometimes you'd expect curiosity to kill that cat once in a while. (Problem solved at Gen Con but I might have James to thank for that).

2. The CyberGen LARP:

I think I've come up with some pretty good preliminary rules for how to do a LARP. I've had a bit more experience actually being in the trenches and slogging out scenes with players. I didn't expect the response I got for running CGen as a LARP. Apparently it's a lot of fun.

It might be because CyberGen is a phenominal setting that's quite different from a lot of other settings. You get to play kids, do crazy things. Heck, I think there were like five different "sex" scenes and by that I mean people making a "date" and then laughing about it in the hallway.

It might be because they got to do what they wanted to do, rather than deal with some sort of overbearing "plot" I had put down upon them. No, you foolish people, I have this great story and you are getting in the way of it!

The coolest part was that this was called the best LARP of the event, by a guy who ran three of his own.

There were other moments, mostly involving me getting to hang out with people I gladly call friends that I don't get to see that often. A lot of playtesting and a lot of great memories.

I tell everyone this. You need to go to Dex Con. It's only a year away now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Convention Updates - Part 1 ... Origins

So I figured this is time enough to sit down and give an update of Origins and Dexcon. Two of my most favourite conventions in the Con Season.


Out of all the BIG cons that take place in the Summer months, Origins has to be my most favourite out of them all. Columbus isn't what you'd consider the most interesting of places though I can't really make that call since all I've seen has been the inside of the convention centre and some awesome places I'll get into in a second. The hotel we stayed at is the one I usually stay at when I go to Origins and it's far enough away that walking is out of the question, but close enough that the drive over is a sneeze.

Event 1: The Booth
The first thing that happened this year at Origins which was different from previous years is that we got a booth. We finally shelled out for it and it was fine, until we were told that we weren't going to have the usual accoutrement that a booth had.

For those of you who don't know what a standard booth comes with, let me give you a list. The first thing a 10x10' (3x3m for the imperially challenged) booth gives you is a single 5' (1.5m) table and a couple of chair. Because we had picked up half a booth from Key 20, there was no table and no chairs. I had not brought a table and some chairs.

This left us in a bit of a predicament.

Thankfully, we were able to find some fold up chairs, a card table and some fabric to use as a table cloth at the last minute before we showed up. We shared a booth with the awesome folks at Arc Dream Publishing, and generally had a good time. Rachel and Shane are phenominal people

Booth lesson number 1: Black is the new Black
We were there, and the Firestorm Ink colours are Orange, Black and White. We focused more on the black and white and realized that we were in full camo gear for a geek convention. When we do this again, focus on the orange and not the black. EVERYBODY was wearing black. Seriously.

We didn't run much because I had missed the deadline but because of that we spent a lot of time hanging out with the people over at Slug Fest Games and trying to get some work done on our games. I think that may be the thing for Origins, but we'll have to see. You totally can't knock a really good event to get people to buy your stuff. It's what we ran CyberGen on for a while .... though I guess that's not the best of examples.

Soon I'll have the update for Dex Con, or Convention Update Part 2.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Anime North :: The Aftermath

Every year I've gone to Anime North to do the gaming stuff there, and boy has it come a long long way. The first year I went, as a company, was in 2003 and it was my very first con. It is a very good con to have as your very first con because a lot of people are there for anime, and when the find a game company there, they're all surprised. Good surprised, like "Oh! I didn't know that was here," rather than, "Oooooh. A game company. What are you doing here?"

The first year we had a table in the dealer's room, which was crazy, and then we were running stuff almost non stop. It was all in the TCC (Toronto Congress Centre) and we had to compete with the noise coming from things like Anime Karaoke and Dance competitions. Nothing against them in general, but have you ever tried to run a game next to white guys who are singing in a language that they don't speak? It's not a fun experience, at all. You have to yell to be heard, and you're trying hard not to laugh and be angry at the situation.

The next year we were moved to the Doubletree Hotel which is right across the street from the convention centre. It was good, quieter and a lot more comfortable than sitting in the huge box that is a convention centre. The bad news was that the organizer wasn't much of one, and they MOVED THE KARAOKE OVER RIGHT NEXT TO US AGAIN!

But I'm only bitter, that's okay.

Last year we got moved again, but this time to the Renaissance Hotel, which is across the bridge and through the woods from Grandmother's house away from the Convention Centre. Which is great because it's even cozier, we have our own rooms, the organizer is far better than the last one and the karaoke stuff is nowhere to be found. The bad news is that it's across the bridge, through the woods and a Gradmother's house away from the Convention Centre. Not a lot of foot traffic, and it still had the feel of being thrown together at the last minute.

Much to my surprise it was. Huh. Imagine that.

Now gaming at Anime North is getting a lot bigger. We consistently filled up the rooms that we were using and only had a few, minor hiccups that kept all of us on staff (yes, I did volunteer this year) hopping about the place.

Now for the really cool things at Anime North. Every year we have a group of people, a lot of whom are from that first year so many moons ago, who come to Anime North and spend a large bulk of their time hanging out with us. In fact, most of all my con stories here involve these people who are all phenomenal roleplayers. Seriously, all the good RP people come to Anime North and I have the distinct privilege of having most of them love CyberGen. It's a kind of heady experience.

The other awesome thing is that I got to meet Jess Hartley, who is a phenomenal writer and individual who was willing to grace us with her patience as we fumbled her about from one event to another. I put a link to her blog over there on the right, not that many people are going to see it, but it's still there. She put up with our lack of organization and structure and enjoyed herself this weekend.

In the end we got to run Dark and Stormy, which is my most favourite CyberGen scenario ever and I ran it for 15 people who had a blast. Biggest group of people who I've run in a large group that didn't have people getting bored. That's because they are the most awesome RPers ever.

Note to self, make sure that I take better care in owning that portfolio at AN Gaming next year.

All in all a very successful weekend.

-Anime-d Out

Monday, May 19, 2008

Parody in Games

I’m working on a new game. That’s not entirely true. I’ve been working on this game for a while, but it’s mostly been in my head. A somewhat inside joke that a lot of people would get if I only took the time to sit down and write it. Before the end of the new year I thought that’s what I’d do.

It’s a Parody game. I’d tell you the title, but then I’d have to get it done faster.

Parody is nothing particularly new, especially within the gaming Industry. We have a habit of being incredibly self-referential and meta-cultural (we refer to ourselves and geek culture a lot) because that’s where a lot of our humour lies. This means that we tend to lean towards parody for cheap laughs.

Culprit number one of this is Steve Jackson Games’ Munchkin series. Not the original series, which is genre parody (which I’ll get into a little later), but the expansion set Munchkin Bites! The reason why this whole game has any sort of humour value is because it uses the meta-cultural parody paradigm. Basically, referencing another game and game company, and their game, Munchkin Bites! relies on the players knowledge of another game in order to make with the funny. Take the card to my left, “Invisible, Invisible, Invisible,” it’s only funny when you know that in the LARP rules for the World of Darkness (WoD) you’re “invisible” if you cross your arms in front of you. The same goes for other such cards in the game that are immediately referential (like “Invisible, Invisible, Invisible) which immediately draw upon a reference, or like “Clereitousness” (image on the right) where it plays with the spelling of a common ability found in the Vampire WoD games.

Ultimately what I’m trying to say is that the game industry is pretty rampant with this kind of thing. I’m pretty sure that to people who have no idea what the hell White Wolf is, or what the WoD is, they wouldn’t get this game at all. I don’t know of too many other industries where this kind of stuff happens, and is commercially viable. Munchkin Bites! was successful enough that it got its own expansion.

Some games go beyond this level of humour. An example could be Slug Fest Games’ Red Dragon Inn which uses the fantasy setting for a humour game, but doesn’t refer to geek culture or another game or manufacturer to get the laughs. Here the humour is a parody of a genre and not the meta-parody shown above. You don’t need to really know a specific game or a specific company in order to get the jokes. Heck, to be fair you don’t really need to even get fantasy to get the jokes, the cards are pretty self-explanatory and funny.

The trick for me, when trying to write this game, is that I have to really understand which one I’m doing. What type of humour am I going for? Do I want to stick to the meta-cultural and self-reflexive, or do I want to dabble with genre humour as well? Do I want to try to expand the horizons of the jokes, or do I strictly stick with the cheap easy gags because it’s easy?

Ideally I’d like to have a little bit of both. However, I think it’s going to lean towards the self-reflexive rather than anything else since it’s really parodying a game type. But now that I’m more aware of the whole situations I can at least include a bit that goes beyond the scope of the original idea.

I’ll have to tell you that story another time, because it’s not that relevant to this little bit. Also, it would give up the name of the book, which is something I don’t quite want to do just yet.

- Iron-y

General Introduction Post

I thought I’d start the blog by going over the general introduction post.

A good general introduction post should have the following things: A stated goal, A general feel for what should be in the blog, An obvious typo, an overview of the structure, some sort of snarky comment, and a “What I’m working on now” expose. I’ll do my best to make sure that I cover as many of these areas as possible.

What I want to do is create a blog that covers my idea on the creative process of game design. Particularly, my creative process.1 This will give me a way to watch my own methods when it comes to designing a game. I’ll cover games that I’ve done, games that I’m working on, games that are already published by other people. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do game reviews, I’m going to do game design reviews. There is a difference.2

I should try to breake3 things up so there’s a bit of cohesion to what people are reading. I’ll try to break it down into: Current Games, Future Games, Other’s Games, General Design notes. It’s general enough, with a catch-all in case things don’t work out.4 That is if anyone actually decides to read this thing. I know I wouldn’t.5

As for what I’m doing this second, that book says it all. A while ago we got a contract with R. Talsorian to be working on a series of books for them that revolve around their Cyberpunk line.6 No, we didn’t get line license, and to be fair I wouldn’t want it. Cyberpunk is an awesome game but it’s not at the level we’re ready for yet, to do something like that on our own. CyberGeneration is far more my pace and style, and I love it.

Nope, what we’re doing is working on some books as a team with R. Talsorian. We’re doing a lot of the grunt writing work and artist gathering, they’re doing all the higher level publishing and printing. They’re taking a rather large risk on us, and we really appreciate them for it. That means, back to reading up my dog-eared copy of Home of the Brave.

-Cyberpunk v2 1/2

1 - There was my Stated Goal
2 - There goes my general feel for the blog
3 - There’s the typo. I knew it was going to haunt me.
4 - How I hope the structure stays. Nothing worse then having to go over a blog structure, again.
5 - Snarky enough for you?
6 - We are really doing that. I just don’t look pretty with that book.


So here I am starting this thing again. Hopefully I'll actually post to it, though I'll probably post the more interesting version of this over at the other blog on the company website ( with images and stuff. iWeb is good for a couple of things, wysiwig formatting for images is one of them. I'm sure I can get some advice from anyone who desires to read this thing on how to do this properly so that I can make it all cool and stuff, but that's in the future!

I feel like I've broken several internet rules already by having a stupidly huge URL. Well, to that I have only one thing to say ... at least its memorable. A lot better than if I threw it together as an acronym. Not that I didn't try, but aigd was already taken by the L'Associazione Italiana Giuoco Dama
. Love to tell you what they are, but I don't speak Italian.

Anyway, I'll get on putting the stuff from the other blog over here to make it look like I was doing a lot of work tonight when in reality it's all just a cut and paste job.

Wait, I shouldn't have told you that. Pretend this never happened.

- Fixing an Opportunity

Firestorm Ink's Fan Box