Mechanic Mashups

Here’s an issue I keep running into lately while writing down game ideas. I keep feeling like all I am doing in rehashing mechanic ideas that I have for one game and mashing them up into another.

I’m trying to get my head around whether or not this is actually an issue or if that’s just normal for a game designer.  I have certainly noticed that some game designers have a specific style and that it indeed comes out in their game mechanics.  I would also say that to a certain extent it does seem like the core mechanics of several games find themselves in other games.

When I really think about that it brings to mind something I have heard many times, “There are no new ideas”.  Which while I find very sad, I think it is at least somewhat true.  There are so many games out there that many of them are bound to have similarities in game mechanics.

I have a background in filmmaking and there’s an old adage that I think applies to game design.  It’s how movie execs say you may a successful sequel: “Give me the same thing, only different.”  Which when you think about it makes a ton of sense.

So here is where I find myself after writing the previous paragraphs… It’s okay to rehash some mechanics and some portions of gameplay as long as you make them different.  Make them unique. Find away to use them in each different game in a way that will surprise people and really add to the gameplay and of course the overall enjoyment of the game.

Whew!  I feel better now.

So any thoughts from the community?  Am I wrong?  Remember I have no idea what I am actually doing… I am just a first time game designer!

Hit me up with your thoughts: @JASlingerland on twitter or



Board Game Movies

I saw a little feature on the MSN homepage this morning talking about the “Top 10 Board Games that should be made into movies”.  It’s a reference to the Battleship movie that opens this weekend.  I’m not going to bother linking to the thing here, because those little feature things they do are up and gone in a matter of hours.  In fact, I can’t even find it again right now to link to, 4 hours later.

I hoped for something interesting in there, but sadly I was disappointed.  They basically listed all the same games we all grew up with: Monopoly, Life, Twister, Operation, Chutes and Ladders, and so on.  There’s nothing wrong with those games, of course.  But think about how revealing that is of MSNBC’s awareness of the great games that are actually out there!

What about an epic story about one man working and fighting to build a society from the wild world of Catan?  Or the story of a noble king fighting an evil lord with armies from dozens of fantastical creatures in Small World?  Hollywood likes superheroes, so let’s go for the story of Sentinels of the Multiverse, with the Freedom Four  joining forces to battle Grand Warlord Voss in the ruins of Atlantis!

That’s only the first three things that popped into my head.  But there are hundreds of games out there.  And most of them are far more interesting than your average fair from Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley and Hasbro.  I understand that Hollywood isn’t knocking down doors to license Munchkin or Plauge and Pesitlence.  Hollywood wants recognizeable brand names to guarantee ticket sales.  But it seems like the writers at MSNBC missed a great opportunity to highlight this stuff, which means the larger public audience just got more stupid schlock to ignore on their website.

Do you have any ideas for great games that would make great movies?  Let me know!


Author combat

I was just listening to the most recent episode of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, my favorite NPR show.  They played their game where they present three silly situations and the caller has to choose which one is real and which one is fake.  This time the theme was repurposing characters from classic literature.

One of the fake ideas was that Wizards of the Coast was creating a deck building CCG featuring major and minor characters from books like Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, and so on.

Of course it’s just a ripoff of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  And they were making jokes about the whalers from Moby Dick having high ratings in their fishing skills.  But that got me thinking.  What if you went the other direction and made a game featuring the authors as crazy folk heroes?

I’d love to see a battle between Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft.  Or Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.  Or Piers Anthony and Anne Rice!  I guess that last pair is too recent.  But still!


Royalty Free!

Jason and I had our first fight today.  Some naughty words were used.  A few dishes were thrown and smashed.  I had to pause what I was watching on Netflix for a minute.  It was rough.  But we made it through, and are stronger for it.  You may be asking, “Oh my goodness, Rob!  What on earth could have upset you so much??”  I’ll tell you:


You see, Jason and I have different tastes in music.  I like good music.  He doesn’t.  I guess that’s pretty much all I need to say.  But specifically we were trying to find a piece of music to use when opening and closing the show.  I spent a few days working with FL Studio to try and make something on my own, but I’m no musician.  Everything came out sounding awful.  My only option left (translated: I got frustrated and gave up) was to Google “Royalty Free Music”.  And my oh my, what a treasure trove!

Long story short:  We settled on a piece by Kevin MacLeod from his website, Incompetech.  It’s called “One-Eyed Maestro”.  And in keeping with the creative commons license he listed on his site, I wanted to give credit where credit is due.  We’re really happy with the track we’ve chosen, but everything he’s got there is fantastic.  The guy’s range is amazing.  The possibilities for ambient music to play during an RPG session is limitless!

So if you’re curious, find “One-Eyed Maestro” on there and give it a listen.  Or wait until our first episode debuts soon and discover it along with us.



Learning about audio

Hey gang!

So this whole idea we’ve had here is kinda crazy.  We’re making a podcast to talk about making our own indie games.  A documentary podcast.  Wild.  I’m super excited about it, and a little nervous.  Who knows whether we’ll have any success or not?  But I guess that’s not really the main goal.  The main goal we’ve got is to document the entire process, both from the creative side as well as the business side.  We want to talk practically and artistically about everything and share our learning experience with anyone who might be interested.

In an effort to do that, it seems logical to start by documenting the process of starting a podcast.  Is that too “meta”?  Eh, oh well.

Jason has been handling the online components – setting up the website and the social media stuff.  I’m terrible at all of that, in addition to finding it horribly boring.  I’ve been focusing so far on two things:  graphics and audio.  I’ll talk about designing our logo and cartoon heads another time.  Today I’d like to talk about the audio stuff.

The one thing I knew for sure at the start of this project is that I knew NOTHING about recording good quality sound.  I’m not a musician.  I didn’t own ANY audio equipment, apart from a crummy headset microphone that came with an old PC.  So I went to the only place I could think of in town that might be able to teach me some stuff.  I went to Guitar Center.  When I walked in there, I made a point to stop and stand right in front of the door and just look around confused.  Easy pickings for a salesman who will want to look super smart in front of an amateur, right?  Barry, the assistant manager pounced on me in less than 30 seconds.  He kept me entertained for the next 30 minutes.

I won’t go into everything we talked about.  What matters is that he gave me a free crash course in recording sound on your home computer.  He told me what specific equipment I would need, what software to use, and what pitfalls to watch out for.  But I didn’t buy anything from him immediately.  I shook his hand and took his card and thanked him profusely, promising that I would be coming back.  Then, like any good modern consumer, I went home and bought the same stuff online for less money and free shipping.  Here’s what I ended up with:

That’s a digital converter box.  You plug your microphone into that, and it converts the analog signal to a digital one, then sends it to your computer via USB.  You need that if you want your sound to not be crappy.  Don’t just use the microphone port on your machine.  It’ll sound terrible.

The AKG K-44 MK II headphones.  Barry said these are the best headphones you can buy for $50.  Great all-around sound, comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and reasonably priced.  I’m very pleased so far.  Barry also warned me against buying DJ headphones.  Those are designed to specifically boost the bass so a DJ can hear his beat in a loud club.  For a podcast, that’s a terrible idea.

We’re not buying a microphone yet, but we probably will eventually.  To start with we’ll be working with one Jason already has from his film projects.  Those aren’t really designed for studio recording like we’ll be doing, but we’re going to make do.  Still, Barry said we should expect to pay $300 for a good quality mic.  I don’t know if we’ll ever go that far, but it’s a place to start.

So that’s where I am right now.  The next things on my list are to get some software, learn how to use it, turn my home office into a recording studio, get some sound into the computer, and create a podcast.  No big deal…  right?


Getting Ready!

I’ve been pretty excited as we get closer to our launch date.  This week I have been making a list of games that I want to play again from my collection.  I’m hoping to refresh my memory of some of my favorite mechanics from them.  My wife and I really enjoy the two player card games that only take 30 minutes or so.  I do plan to drag Rob and his wife in for some of these!

So far on my list I have:

  • Catan Dice
  • Castle
  • Lawless
  • Citadels
  • Carcassonne
  • Wasabi
  • Bang
I’m sure it will grow as we start recording more episodes but that’s what I’ve got for now.
– Jason