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In life you have to do a lot of things you don't f*cking want to do. Many times, that's what the f*ck life is... one vile f*cking task after another.
Hands-on With Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp
One of the advantages of writing this, and other, blogs is that I sometimes hoodwink developers into letting me see what they're working on before anyone else. It gives me a sense of power, which should indicate just how insignificant I am in real life.
This time the victim is HexWar Games, which is usually a developer of hex-based war games. Here, they joined up with Victory Point Games to bring their solitaire world-saver, Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp to iOS.
If you've played the board game before, I really think you're going to love this. The graphics are quite beautiful and the UI is fantastic, taking a page from Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy and having non-essential information off the screen and available via sliding trays. You also have a ton of options when starting a game to make the game as hard as you want, although why you'd want it any harder is beyond me. It's tough.
If you haven't played the game before, it might take you a bit to get up to speed. I'll explore that in a bit.
Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp follows the patterns set forth by most solitaire/cooperative games: you take your turn and try to do happy things, then the game craps all over you. On your turn you will collect proteins and attempt to create antibodies to combat the various strains of the disease in your petri dish. You can place up to 2 proteins per turn, as well as buy new equipment or scientists to give you special powers. Then, the game checks to see if the disease spreads and whether or not the disease mutates. That's the crapping all over you part. It sucks.
Each turn also has events that can trigger, which alter how the game rules work on that turn and keep the game from feeling like you're doing the same thing over and over.
Winning occurs when all the strains of the disease are eliminated by creating the correct antibodies. Losing occurs when all of humanity is dead, no more proteins are available, or there are so many strains of the disease that your petri dish is full. Prepare to experience those last three much more than eliminating all the strains.
The game is incredibly tense, frustrating, and, if you're lucky, rewarding. Pretty much everything you could hope for from a fantastic solo/cooperative games.
The issues that new players might have don't involve figuring out how to play--there is a tutorial, albeit a short one--but what's going on behind the scenes. If you've played the cardboard version, you're familiar with what causes the disease to spread, and what can affect that dice roll. All of that is hidden in the digital version, so new players will wonder why the disease spreads or doesn't spread each turn. This can be especially frustrating when you have a scientist that helps you stop outbreaks, but outbreaks keep occurring. Veterans will know that the scientist is giving you a +2 to a d6 roll, but newbies will wonder why the hell the outbreaks keep happening.
It's not as bad as I make it sound, but my first few games leaned more toward frustration than fun. Once I figured out what was going on (by downloading the rules), everything clicked into place. Also, I spoke to the developer about the hidden rolls and such, and he mentioned that the rolls might be able to be made more apparent in an early patch.
HexWar is a week or two away from submitting to Apple, but they're fully expecting the game to be released simultaneously for PC/Mac and iOS Universal sometime around mid-June. Android is a possibility, but that would be down the road. Way down the road.
We'll keep you up to date with any new information about Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp all the way to its release date in June.
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Possibly the most exciting thing about the Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition Kickstarter campaign (ridiculously overfunded at $138K) was that we met the Ultimate Werewolf Timer App stretch goal early on. I lined up a developer and started finishing up the spec immediately and made sure the developer could complete the app for a simultaneous release with the game (currently on track for June).
This tells the story of how the app was designed from the ground up. If you just care about what’s in the app and don’t want all the backstory, skip down to the section “So, how did the app end up?” which provides a capsule summary of the final app along with screenshots.
A timer app for Ultimate Werewolf? Really?
One of the best things I've ever done was to start using timers when I moderate Ultimate Werewolf. I've been using an iOS app called "Timer" (really) that for $4.99 did all sorts of things I didn't need it to, and didn't do some other things I wanted it to, but I jerry-rigged it and got it working. And the response from players who took part in those games that had a timer has been overwhelmingly positive as well; the added structure of timed days allowed villages to focus on the job at hand and spend less time on devolving tangents. At various events where I moderate, players will often come up to me and go out of their way to thank me for using a timer. In fact, I believe that the use of a timer is essential to get those players back who've shied away from Ultimate Werewolf in the past...not only does it keep the game moving, but it's a godsend for eliminated players who are watching the remaining events unfold.
While the Ultimate Werewolf rules don't say it's mandatory to use a timer, I strongly suggest that you do, devoting an entire page in the rulebook (in the new edition) to using one effectively. Of course, it's easier now because the Ultimate Werewolf Timer app will be available when the new version of Ultimate Werewolf ships this summer...and this app absolutely rocks.
I've designed apps before, both as games (Suburbia) and game utilities (Start Player, One Night Ultimate Werewolf), so I was able to use that experience along with my use of all sorts of timer apps and desktop timer applications when designing the Ultimate Werewolf Timer app.
Defining the Requirements
Before the Timer app was designed, however, the first thing I did was list all the things I wanted from an Ultimate Werewolf helper app, that would help moderators with their games of Ultimate Werewolf. A full-blown moderator app is definitely something I'd like to do someday, but of all the components of that idea, the most critical one was a timer app that really worked well for Ultimate Werewolf...it was the core of the moderator app idea.
The one aspect of the Ultimate Werewolf Timer app that had to be in place that just wasn’t available in any commercially available app was decrementing day times. In Ultimate Werewolf, each day after the first should be shorter, forcing the game to move along quicker and quicker. This is necessary for two reasons: (1) There are less players that need to speak and (2) there are more players waiting for the game to end. A rough guideline for timing Ultimate Werewolf games is to make each day about 30 seconds per player, so if there are currently 10 players in the game, the day should last 5 minutes. The next day, assuming the village eliminates one of its own via a vote and the werewolves eliminate a player at night time would have 8 players, so the day would then be 4 minutes long, and so on.
Because of this requirement, there needed to be 2 settings present: First, the length of the first day. And 2nd, the amount that the days get shorter by each day. I quickly determined that it was easier to let the moderator choose actual times for both of these settings than to simply choose the number of starting players and do the (very easy) math for them; because players would still want to adjust that very arbitrary “30 seconds per player” guideline, and then there would be a second setting for that, and then there would be the educational requirement of stating why that number was important.
But to throw a curve into the mix, there was another variable, which was that the first day of any Ultimate Werewolf game is a little longer, as there are traditionally player introductions and initial discussions which often take longer than Subsequent days. How much longer (if at all) is determined by the group. So now a third setting needed to be added: “first day”.
At this point, I put all this onto a rough layout with the first crude mockup like this (this included the idea from the original “moderator” app idea which tracked the number of players in the game):
So I had my basic settings, but I also needed to know what I would display on screen while the timer counted down. Obviously the timer, but I thought it would be nice to show what day (of the game) it is, which can help players track who was eliminated and when. I also needed buttons to allow the moderator to move to the next and previous days quickly. And finally, if the discussion is going well, I might want to add some time to the timer “live” or take time away if there’s dead silence. So here’s the mockup for the first “day timer” screen:
At this point I put the app design aside to focus on other things.
The First Major Revision to the Design
A few months later, inspired after moderating a few games of Ultimate Werewolf one night, I started working on the PRD for the app, and the actual design of the screens. At this time I was working in a portrait orientation for the setup screens, with the idea that you could rotate the device for the timer display to horizontal or vertical orientation when it was running. So the first mockup for the setup screen looked something like this:
The timer screen itself looked something like this (note that it now has a Pause button, a critical element that had been missing from the original mockup). This design was a weird combination of the typeface for the then-not-quite-released-yet One Night Ultimate Werewolf game and the graphics from the Ultimate Werewolf Ultimate Edition game:
At this time I also included a settings screen, which at this point was simply a sound control settings screen:
Again, this was shelved for a bit while I worked on other projects.
Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition and Revision Two
I had wanted to do an updated version of Ultimate Werewolf for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to it. The original game was out in 2007, and the Ultimate Edition followed shortly after in 2008. I wanted to do a five-year anniversary edition with new (or updated art), but as 2013 started drawing to a close, I realized I wasn’t going to make the date in time. And the more I looked at it, the more I realized I wanted to change with the game, so the Deluxe Edition was born. I decided to make the timer an integral part of the new edition, and when the Kickstarter project was being developed, making a stretch goal to help cover the cost of development for the app seemed like a perfect match.
Of course, with a new design for the cards, the app I had designed wasn’t going to really match, so I went to work redesigning the app, and really digging in deep to make sure that the app would be the the definitive timer to be used with not just Ultimate Werewolf games, but all werewolf games.
As I looked with a critical eye at the planned timer, I realized I had missed two important elements: Night time and player defense. In Ultimate Werewolf, several things can happen at night, including werewolves deciding who to eliminate and the Seer picking someone to inspect (she learns if that person is a werewolf or not). So a timer was added for that phase. When a player is accused of being a werewolf during the day, quite often I would stop the time and allow the player to defend themselves and answer questions from the other players. With time stopped, however, that could take a long time, and players could often devolve the conversation into totally unrelated areas to the point where some players would forget who is “on the block” (nice for the accused, but bad for the game). So I added a defense timer as an interrupt; the idea is that when there is an accused person, the moderator taps the Defense button and a new timer starts just for that person’s defense. When the defense time is up, players must vote on the accused. Afterwards, the day timer continues from where it had been prior to the Defense; if the player is eliminated the moderator can press “next” to get to the night timer.
I continued to revise and modify the feature set. I dropped the ability to change orientation because the timer looked much better (and was easier to read) in horizontal view, and developing it for vertical view was an unnecessary use of development time. I added a few other niceties, like hiding and showing most of the elements on the screen and a rising sun animation with floating clouds, and then submitted the PRD to the developer so he could start working on it.
Feature additions and changes during development
The first few builds from the developer were focused on getting the timer right, including the ability to adjust the time “live” and it took several iterations to get to the final set of controls: tapping the “+” increases the time by 00:10, while pressing/holding the “+” increases the time by 01:00.
I used a projector in one of my Ultimate Werewolf tests, and discovered that in a brightly lit room, the contrast was acceptable with the white numbers on the blue background, but it wasn’t great. An option was added to settings to hide and show the background so that the contrast would be as extreme as possible in those situations.
A few of the tests resulted in a couple of players being ardent clock watchers, and as a result of them informing the other players of the time remaining every 10 seconds (or so it seemed), the ability to hide the time in settings was added, for a more natural experience of watching the sun rise and fall each day.
With the feature set locked down it was time to make some cuts. I haven’t included any info here about the features I wanted that we cut from the initial release in order to make the release schedule, but as always, it’s a painful process with much soul-searching, despair, and occasional cursing. The app is currently in testing, with only a few features not implemented yet, but it is definitely on track to be available in June as scheduled.
So, how did the app end up?
The most impressive part of the app is the one you (and your players) will be looking at all the time: the Day Timer screen. This fully-customizable screen (you can turn most elements on and off in Settings) displays the time left in that day in minutes and seconds in giant numbers superimposed on a background scene of trees and a nice summery sky with clouds floating by lazily. It also shows the day, the “real world” time, and a series of control buttons at the bottom (below the treeline) allowing you to go to a special “Defense Timer” (that’s right), pause the time left, or skip to the previous or next timer.
But the one thing you can’t see in a screenshot is the movement. The Sun subtly moves across the sky, rising at the beginning of the day and setting at night. And what’s super cool, if you don’t want the countdown timer to display, the Sun can still move across the screen, giving a much more analog feel to your games…the village will slowly notice that the sun is setting, and rush to eliminate a werewolf (they hope).
During the day, you can opt to use a Defense timer when a player has been accused of being a werewolf. That gives them a very limited amount of time to defend themselves and for the rest of the village to ask questions of them before the vote. When the Defense timer is up, an angry mob can be heard (though all sounds are customizable), and you can call for the vote immediately.
At the end of the day, there’s a night time timer; this is great for those moderators who take FOREVER to get through a night phase (I’m talking to you, Frank DiLorenzo, my Night of the Black Moon co-author), and also works so you can be hands-off of the timer (one of the things I’ve run into as a moderator is that when recapping the events of the night for the village first thing in the morning, I forget to start the timer again). After the night time timer is up, the next day starts automatically.
After the game, the timer setup you used is remembered and you can just start another game with the same timers, or you can make adjustments in the easy-to-use Setup screen. This is where you turn on and off things like how quickly the time of each day gets shorter after the first day, if you want there to be a separate Defense timer and Night Time timer, and how long each of the timers should be. Find a setup you really like? You can save it and load it in the future, even if you totally muck around with the times. You can save any number of sets of times and load them this way.
On the Settings screen, you can choose which sounds sound for which alarms, to turn on and off display items, and to set your device to stay awake while the timer screens are present (though it will still fall asleep while in the setup/settings screens, so you don’t have to worry about quitting out of your app when you’re done using it).
The app was developed on both iOS and Android platforms simultaneously via Corona, but the iOS version will be out the door first, with the Android one following closely thereafter. Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition should be available in stores this summer.
And yes, the app will be free!
Reviewed On: iPad 2 and iPhone 5
Current Price: $2.99
Size: 87.3 MB
Itunes link: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
My Week with Warhammer Quest
For the past few days I have been able to play through some of Warhammer Quest. Having never played the board game before, I do feel at quite the disadvantage when trying this new version (if anyone has a copy for trade, do hit me up). However, it is clear that Warhammer Quest on iPad is going beyond its board game roots. It is a single player experience that has players traveling around the Warhammer Fantasy world completing quests and fighting enemies. Reviewing a PDF of the classic game's rules it appears similar, but the game definitely polishes it with a video game sheen.
Warhammer Quest appears to be split into towns and the regions around those towns. Upon arriving at a village you will be given a main story quest. These main quests usually involve multiple dungeons and story events. Upon leaving any town you will also be able to go on optional side quests that generally have a specific goal or reward that you are going for. In towns you can also buy items in a shop, level up your characters, and pray to gods.
Within the dungeons you explore with your team of four heroes. They are the originals from the board game: Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf, and Wizard. They each have unique abilities, as many of you may know. The Barbarian can go berserk which can help him get more attacks or possibly limit him. The Wizard uses magic and the Elf can do strong ranged attacks.
Dungeons are explored tile by tile (or room by room) and each may contain monsters are could just be a hallway. Also if you move too slowly you can be randomly jumped by a group of monsters. Combat is a turn based system with all heroes moving and attacking followed by the monsters. The combat does not show you the die rolls but, rather, handles them in the background. I found combat to be really quick and clean, unlike others of this genre on iOS.
I have played for a few hours already and just touched on some of the content. There are seven main cities, and you can visit the Balklands to face off against the Skaven via IAP. Also available for purchase are new heroes like the Troll Hunter. There is plenty of content there in the standard game, but you have the ability to add on.
Graphically the game is really great. Having been a casual Warhammer player in the past, it was great to see how much care they have taken in getting the models to look like their plastic brothers. They are so well done I wish they added in some different camera angles to show them off, maybe for special abilities. The tile designs of each dungeon are also really interesting and there is quite the variety(though they do repeat occasionally).
Warhammer Quest should be arriving within a month or two, and I am looking forward to spending more time with it. It seems like an excellent marriage of the original game and modern sensibilities. This is one to keep on your list.
If you have other questions about something I didn't touch on, please put them in the comments and I will answer if I can.
BDC does not want us to talk too much about Eclipse before the review, but we have been allowed to give a brief preview. Our full review will go up on the day of launch.
I have not had the game for long but have been able to play several local games and have seen the online system.
Here are 10 features and design choices that have stood out thus far:
1. The game, while using a unique UI, stays very true to board game. It is in a nice middle ground between a direct translation and a complete departure. The game has a lot of info involved so this is all stored in trays that can slide and out.
2. All races are available to play with in the $6.99 purchase.
3. You can play with up to 6 players both online and off (AI and/or pass and play). Online uses BDC's own login system.
4. There are 3 AI levels. I am relatively new to the game so I cannot speak for the strength.
5. The game screen can get quite large but it will move to show you each action. You can also zoom in and out as needed.
6. There is a round summary that quickly tells you the standings as well as the new tech available.
7. There is an Undo function but there are certain cutoffs when it is not possible to undo. These are all mentioned in the game text.
8. Scores are shown as a range of numbers based on hidden tokens. This is great as it quickly does the math for you so you can see in what range a player's score may be.
9. Each race has unique ship designs. These designs show up on the board and in the battle animation segments.
10. You can tap any ship on the screen to find out how it is built so you can easily measure what you will be up against if you attack.
If you have anything else you are dying to know, try posting your question in the comments and perhaps BDC will chime in with an answer.
For Immediate release: April 7, 2013
For Further Information Contact:
Thoroughbred Figures, Portsmouth Virginia
Toby Barrett of Thoroughbred Figures and creator of the popular 1/600 scale naval miniatures of the American Civil War wishes to announce the posting of a funding campaign on Kickstarter.com:
The project will create an IoS app which will run the famous Yaquinto board game “The Ironclads” re-adapted for miniatures play around the tabletop or regular boardgame play.
The App will contain everything from the original Ironclads game - all the rules, data cards, scenarios, and such for miniatures play. Game set up will include flexible scales – 1/600 and 1/1200 mainly – and quick generation of orders of battle. The groundbreaking heart and soul of the app will include a computer-assist game referee and a combat resolution module to greatly help to speed up the operation and ease of the game. What happens on the table will still be key with the app freeing the players to be more able to concentrate on movement, decisions and tactics (e.g., the fun stuff) instead of searching through bulky charts, ship data and modifier lists.
This app is really a first of its kind, there few apps for miniature games and no game assist apps.
Pledge rewards will be new Thoroughbred 1/600 kits and finished collector sets as listed on the right side of the Kickstarter project web site.
Full disclosure: I have a cameo in this kickstarter...
Compatibility: iPad Only
Current Price: Free
Developer/Publisher: Stone Blade Entertainment
Size: 465 MB
Multiplayer: Pass & Play.
Itunes link: SolForge
This demo certainly achieves the goal of making me want to know more. It is great to see the level up mechanic in action and it brings new control to the lane based genre. My biggest complaint so far is that it has a pretty drastic runaway leader problem. This is common with CCGs, but with 100 life, it can be a long while between when you know you have lost and when you actually lose. The collectible aspect and deck building aspect of the game will be a nice touch and I look forward to trying them out. It interestingly really a deck building mechanic built into the game as the cards you don't use this round will come up in the next deck (along with those you have leveled up). I am still not a champion of the lane based mechanic, but I am anxious to see if they can fix the balance issues and deliver a great complete experience.
Current Price: $1.99 IAP
Itunes link: Nightfall: Martial Law
This expansion to AEG's Nightfall adds several new cards and new mechanics. It is great to see more support for this app and the expansion is an affordable way to bring new variety. It may not change your opinion on the game if you are not a fan, but if you enjoy it then this is more great content.
Compatibility: iPad Only
Current Price: Free (Figures available at retailers and price varies)
Size: 178 MB
Itunes link: Heroclix TabApp
Physical Cards link: Heroclix figures
The Heroclix TabApp is another interesting combination of the iPad and physical components. It is meant to appeal to children and a I think will do well in the that market. Sadly, it is not a full Heroclix game on iOS, but rather a sort of arcade game. I for one see this as a potential growing market and hope this is just the starting point to a deeper experience. If you do have children this is a great toy as it is basically 3 in 1: Heroclix, action figure, and app.
Current Price: Free (Cards available at retailers and price varies)
Developer/Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Size: 189 MB
Itunes link: Monsterology
Physical Cards link: Monsterology Cards
Monsterology is more of a piece of tech than a game. It is features a cool use of the iPad screen and is worth checking out a for a few dollars. Behind the tech is a basic but interesting turn-based strategy game. It will certainly appeal to children and adults will love the cool invention.
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