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Archive for Oliver Twitt

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Take That!: Ace Attorney the card game?

Oliver Twitt
United States
Virginia
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I enjoy story telling card games like Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game and Gloom but I'm surprised I haven't seen any courtroom drama style games (card game or otherwise). The Phoenix Wright series proved to me that interactive novels can actually be fun with its hilarious characters and colorful scenarios. So, I put two and two together and the idea came to head: why not create a storytelling card game with a similar setup?

Imagine a twisted world where court cases are heavily publicized events (more so than usual). The police force has been cut back heavily leaving attorneys to pull majority of the legwork in investigating cases. The fate of a client rests on the tenacity of their attorney, innocent or guilty. A good prosecutor can condemn an innocent man and a good defense attorney can save a guilty one. Evidence is important but your silver tongue more so.

The setup is similar to Gloom. Everyone begins with five clients who are being accused of murder. You play prosecutor for your opponents and defense for your clients. Once you accuse someone of a crime, you have to come up with the three elements that will secure a guilty vote: target, desire, and opportunity. Cards are played to facilitate your opponent's guilt but the same cards can be played on yourself to prove your innocence. For example, witnesses can place your opponents at the scene of the crime (fulfilling opportunity) or testify for your clients (cancelling an opponent's opportunity). Once all three elements are present, you can play a verdict card to eliminate that client.

I'm developing a scoring system that gives synergy bonuses for certain evidence. For example, using a "vehicle" and "car loan" as evidence for your case will gain bonus victory points. It's still too early to decide how the cards will be setup but you have a better chance of winning when things tie together.

Of course there's an element of heavy storytelling. You have to make up a good reason how all the evidence ties together. When your opponents refute you, they have to modify the "story" to fit their contradiction. Some people don't like storytelling games for this reason but I love playing with my friends and there needs to be more of them.
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Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:43 pm
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Animal Farm: It's like Agricola but you're an asshole

Oliver Twitt
United States
Virginia
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This idea came to me after playing a few games of Agricola. The mechanic of slowly revealing actions over a limited time frame appeals to me and while the game is simple in execution the huge amount of variables keeps it fresh every play. After discussing the book Animal Farm with some friends I started discussing how to combine the political aspects of the book with a board game.

The idea is that the game starts off with a large number of actions which shrink over time; basically a reverse Agricola. The farm begins as the perfect ideal of a free commune: everyone gets an equal share and is free to pursue their interests (actions). As the farm grows larger, power (actions) are restricted until the end of the game when multiple players are trying to juggle a handful of actions that can only be used once.

There is no scoring at first but as actions are taken away score cards are revealed. Everyone begins with a fixed number of victory points and the goal is to end with the highest amount. The score cards actually take away points and are based on religious commandments. For example:

"No sheep shall graze in an unfenced field. -10 points per sheep in an unfenced field."

These cards hurt you in the end but you can play exceptions to the commandments which allow you to skirt around the rules. For example, an amendment to the above commandment could be

"No sheep shall graze in an unfenced field EXCEPT: A dog is present."

This adds the strategy of changing the rules to suit your needs while screwing the other players. The biggest hurdle are designing the exceptions so they can match all the commandments. This idea has been rattling around for a while and I would love to develop something like it.
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Fri Mar 9, 2012 9:24 pm
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Solar Bastards

Oliver Twitt
United States
Virginia
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In the near future, space flight has reached an Age of Exploration level. We've colonized every planet in the known solar system but even a journey from Earth to Mars is still a month-long event. The solar system is so isolated that information has become a commodity. The events on one planet are completely alien to another. To Earthlings, the happenings on Venus are a novelty. To a Martian, the events on Neptune are a total mystery. In this information "dark age" where humanity is split, news is the most valuable commodity. And that's where you come in: a gonzo journalist and adventurer known as a "Solar Bastard." But your job isn't just to report news, it's to make news and you do so by going on fantastic adventures across the entire solar system.

Most space games take place on a galactic level but I want to keep the game rooted firmly in our solar system. The entire solar system would be a hex map with each individual planet being its own hex tile (the larger the planet, the more hexes). In order to create an evolving galaxy, each planet would also revolve around the sun each turn with the furthest planets revolving slower, obviously. Space flight in this future is closer to classic Age of Exploration navy piloting: basically each ship is a large "boat" that requires large crews to function. Movement is slow and lengthy making turns take place over a large period of time.

I have more ideas floating around but this is the gist of it. I want the greatest emphasis to be on your ship and crew. Each crew member has their own personality and position within these great, naval like space boats. Events are generated in a Merchant of Venus style: draw from a bag and place them at pre-determined spots. Players race against each other to "capture" the greatest events for the highest ratings. Each planet has their own personal tastes: Venus, for example, enjoys romantic stories so ferrying travelers across the system and taking on a diverse crew will earn the most victory points from them. Mars, on the other hand, loves war stories: go pirate hunting and soon you'll be swimming in Martian swag.

This is one of the ideas I keep at the top of my design documents because I really like the concept. The idea of adventuring space reporters is fascinating to me and I wonder what inter-planetary communication would be like if we did expand to other planets. In the past 20 years we've lived vicariously through every war and natural disaster in countries most people have never heard of before. In the hypothetical near future, would Earthlings really care about seismic activities on Mars?

News and entertainment is becoming blurrier by the day. Solar Bastards is about the bastardization of the media in a future where information is a commodity. The more "Hollywoodized" the news is, the better and that's the theme I'm shooting for.
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Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:09 am
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Enemy Unknown

Oliver Twitt
United States
Virginia
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Playing X-COM over the weekend made the old idea cranks turn as I began to wonder why no similar game existed. The X-COM series separated itself from the pack with its combination of a tactical overworld and squad-based combat. Why this never carried over into the board game world is baffling.

The idea I have would work both solo and multiplayer. In a solo game you would build up your base while investigating alien disturbances across the world. In a multiplayer game the players would have a cooperative goal but are independently operated out of their own countries. You receive the most funding for solving issues in your own country but need to come to the aid of your fellow defenders. You're only as strong as the weakest link so make sure your buddies are at the top of their game.

The combat system is the most difficult aspect to think of. X-COM's combat could be a game in and of itself. I have a simple, abstract idea where each map is represented by a long tile. Initial scans reveal the number of aliens but their true strength is hidden initially. You place your soldiers in line according to their position: point and vanguard in the front followed by the captain, rifleman, and rear guard. Combat maneuvers occur in order of speed and units can move into position for bonuses (such as behind cover). Each weapon has its own range, area of effect, and accuracy rating. Essentially it's a 2D sidescrolling tactical setup that plays elegantly in my head but needs further fleshing out.

Truly, the draw would be in the base construction and random events. I'm trying to get a hand on Feudality which has a neat "base" building mechanic. Think Agricola but more interesting stuff happens than pregnancies!
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Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:10 am
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Fantasy Civilization Builder

Oliver Twitt
United States
Virginia
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For the past few weeks I've been rediscovering King of Dragon Pass, a neat little strategy game released in the late 90s on PC. I've never heard of Glorantha or the RuneQuest/HeroQuest system before this game but it floored me with its rich lore and alternative fantasy setting. Inspired by Bronze Age Germanic tribes, KoDP was a game about tradition, lore, and family. It completely went against all conceptions of "modern" fantasy settings in video games at the time.

And so, the idea of building your own tribe has sparked my interest as a designer. As with Glorantha, I want a world where legend, myth, and tradition rule. As with real life, the myths are never consistent. Your tribe may have a different creation myth than the tribe across the plains. After a few preliminary drawings, the game world became situated in a fantasy Africa with Middle East (desert tribes), Asia (plains and horse tribes), and India (jungle tribes). This coincides with my love of Morrowind and it's beautiful Africa-Meets-Orient design. Every tribe in the game world reveres "The Spider", a story telling trickster deity shamelessly pulled from the African god Anansi.



I have ideas but they're vague shapes without form. I've felt the game could work as a multiplayer board game similar to Through the Ages, or as a solitaire game accompanied with a Fighting Fantasy style gamebook for events. For multiplayer, I want to put heavy emphasis on communication. Victory points are earned through maintaining tradition even if breaking tradition would be more beneficial.

There will be worker placement but nothing more complicated than Through the Age's system of placing little people in the worker pool. Actions would be simultaneous with everyone revealing their actions at the same time after choosing them. There must be direct player conflict but I want to set a system into place that keeps one tribe from "farming" another (a video game term for siphoning off the weakest player). In KoDP, waging war during the planting season meant a poorer harvest while waging war during the winter may halt your troops. The summer months were ripe for war but in effect, 6 out of 8 yearly turns were poor for waging battle.

I definitely like the events cards of TtA and that is definitely a system I would adopt. I want there to be mandatory events but the players can contribute for tactical benefit.

This has been rattling around for a while. I doubt I'll ever get around to writing even a modest design document but I desperately want to explore the idea visually. I feel there is a lack of originality in fantasy settings. How much longer must we suffer faux-medieval European architecture and bad British accents?
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Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:05 am
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