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Zoneplex: Collected Thoughts Of A Game Designer

Game Designer/Graphic Designer/Art-Director of the game Zoneplex and his accompanying thoughts, ramblings and revelations.

Archive for Shelby Cinca

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Success and the now!

Shelby Cinca
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So, many months have past since I last posted... Started to work full time more (I'm a user experience designer by trade) and handling finishing touches on the game post-kickstarter. Fast forwarding from my previous post I find myself at the airport after the boardgamegeek convention in Dallas posting again! Our game has been released and we were able to hold it for the first time this past Wednesday. I'm super happy how everything turned out, and I am overjoyed the games actually made it. We had a lot of delays, had to re-output the files, some manufacturing delays, and unfortunate communication delays since I would be writing the manufacturer on LA time and they are going to work as I slept since they are in Germany, so we'd lose a day for a simple email question. On top of that the hurricane that hit the east coast delayed the game from docking as the ports were ravaged, we had a massive delay and I called in favors and had a friend rent a truck and get them to Maryland which then got placed in another truck that my other friend drove to Texas!! Insanity, but it is all here. I had so much fun playing the game with people at the con and I can't wait to hear everyone's experiences with it... Also can't wait to get to work on expansions and new creations!

If anyone have any questions about any of our processes and experiences, just post in the comments.

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Sun Nov 18, 2012 4:21 pm
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Rulebook v1.0a

Shelby Cinca
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We released v1.0a of the Zoneplex rulebook...



Getting close to it being done but we still need some tweaks. Crowd-sourced some proofing and got great feedback and then also some very non-informative feedback saying "at 90% it failed". What I want was constructive criticism of WHY it failed, not just IT FAILED. My response:

"In order to help us make it work... How does it fail? You get lost? Needs diagrams? Specifics would help us greatly, saying it simply failed is like saying "the song failed at 90% by the flamenco guitarist"... Was the guitarist out of tune? Did he get off beat? Let us know and we will remedy and make the rulebook sing like the fingers of a spanish virtuoso wooing a promenading couple in Barcelona. Thanks!"

I really want to make the best game here so I want to take in all critique and seriously consider what is not working.

Stepping into my graphic designer role *sets designer hat on head*: from a design standpoint I think it may be that the final pages are mostly text and perhaps it could be simplified with some illustrative examples be it diagrams or in-game scenario images. Perhaps at 90% it seems like the dreaded Thunderstone v1.0 rulebook which just makes my head spin and realize that I missed important rules that were hiding on the next page tucked away. I do like Thunderstone though but the rules and the cards in v1.0 were a bit confusing at first! Anyway- I hope to have it figured out and will be tackling the last few pages with some more graphic embellishment this week. We may end up with a bigger book but so be it! It's already an epic space adventure. Let me know what you think if you are following this here blog...

Rulebook is here: http://www.zoneplex.net/rulebook/zoneplex_rules_v1a.pdf

On a side note backer Nelson emailed with some proofreading notes and great feedback! Now we talkin'!

My next game will be a simple family game so my brain doesn't explode! gulp

- S
Zoneplex
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Sun May 20, 2012 8:15 pm
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Progress in the Zoneplex... Variants... Hunger Games in a Space Pyramid?!

Shelby Cinca
United States
Los Angeles
California
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So while I have been finishing up the layouts after receiving the artwork and organizing the t-shirt shipments, etc.. many things has come up. A revelation of two player variant with the current component let us see what wasn't optimized for two player play thus having us stay our ground with releasing Zoneplex as a 3-5 player game. Though it's not to say we won't have a two player or a solitaire version! I've had some ideas (firstly for a solitaire mode) which would work that just needs to be tested with some modified tiles, so I can see an expansion with that and/or a two player version to come in the future!

Either way- in organizing the printing process from the last post we have decided to have the bonus tiles separated out as to not confuse the folk who would be purchasing Zoneplex as is.

And as time clicks by one is always nervous to see how people will react at large to the game. We've had great game-tests but with a game that puts the human element in the forefront it'll be interesting to see how folk take it in. It is definitely a combination of both schools, Euro & Amero gaming. I think it will be a divisive game, some people will love it, some will not... which I guess is the deal with almost all games except maybe Carcassonne?!


(Pictured: Start Card with Reptilian!)

Hunger Games in a Space Pyramid?!

In thinking about how to describe the game to laymen who aren't gamers is "Hunger Games in a space pyramid". Which is basically the premise now that I think back at it (side note: i have read all the hunger games novels- in fact during the making of Zoneplex, maybe a subconscious choice?). I say this since in Zoneplex everyone starts with helping eachother and at the end alliances are severed and only one wins and controls the zoneplex via entering the eye or having the most influence when the cards run out!

And now for a preview of the final cover spread...now with the ITC Serif Font which was famous in the 80s for Dark Tower, He-Man and even a Middle Earth based War Game!



I can't wait to get this out to you all!

- Shelby
zoneplex.net
Zoneplex
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Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:10 pm
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Fears & Relics & Extra Space

Shelby Cinca
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ZoneplexA quandary for a game-desginer as I am also the graphic designer I have hit an interesting crossroads where I balance my mind between being a business minded graphic artist who wants to save costs and be efficient in my printing and a game designer/fanboy who wants to pack everything I can into my first game.

So what does this all mean?!

In laying out the tiles for Zoneplex I realized that the punchboards I have actually can accommodate an extra 11 tiles in the game box! Since the game itself is tested and functions with it's 49 tiles— I find myself wondering what I can do with these tiles and as it is the eleventh hour before things go to press many ideas run through my head, many of which is due to some of the interactions I have with BoardGameGeekers...



I have expansion ideas and variations but they are untested or minimally tested. When creating a game the testing is very important and it can be foolish to throw something in the original version as an afterthought, however in this age of the internet is it crazy to throw in some tiles which aren't explained in the rules and ask the player to go to a website to see what these tiles mean?! In a way it's like pushing out an update to your iOS game however one that the user must seek on their own accord.

HmmmMmmmmM..!

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Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:45 pm
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Introduction

Shelby Cinca
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A few months ago I successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for a game called Zoneplex which I was working on for the past year while living in Sweden. To summarize the game is a 3-5 player game set in an alien pyramid based off the world of my electronic music persona Triobelisk. The game involves tile-laying, exploration, negotiation, battle and deceit. It focuses on balanced game play but definitely puts our humanity in the forefront with how we as humans can throw things off with our decisions, alliances and emotions. In game terms we tried to make a game that brings together our favorite aspects of the EuroGame genre and the American board-game genre (unfortunately called AmeriTrash in game scene jargon) and mash it into one.



Zoneplex Kickstarter Page

We pulled in a lot of influences in the mythology which has been a long work in progress novel (living on Google Docs) with my friend Gabriel Baldessin. Everything from Dune, Star Wars, Cthulu, Iain M. Banks, Cyberpunk, etc... it all somehow boils in our cauldron of concepts. All this and an underlying sense of mysticism and symbolism and you have the universe that exists behind it all. The game itself is just a glimpse of it and similarly like the movie The Dark Crystal we feel that all the story behind everything which you are not aware of somehow seeps through in making it a rich universe and unique game experience.



The game itself materialized in my sketchbook while at a friend's house. It was a loose concept with numbers and scrawls as my mind wandered thinking of game mechanics, Johannes Kepler and shapes. A few days later I made a rough prototype of cards and triangular tiles (more like paper chits) to try this out with my friends. It was an initial success but upon replay we saw some faults and then Kenny Jakobsson (a graduate of Game Design School in Gothenburg, Sweden) whom I met and struck a friendship with via his band Minora joined along to help realize the game to it's full potential. We sat one evening and tried the game again on my dining table and then began to take notes. Once we brainstormed more we decided the game needed a proper prototype since the best way to flesh out a game is game testing and game testing and game testing. You play a game so many times that you may go mad but that is how it goes even in software development when making games, etc... (side note: I made the iPad game Tri-Tri-Triobelisk with coder-genius Erik Svedäng around this time which also involved a ton of testing to find bugs, etc... I must have played the game 1000+ times easily). So then began the extensive game testing of the first official prototype with placer art.

The initial version had a concept of a player being "worthy" to go deeper into the pyramid while it is being built which correlated to your "level" and the levels within the pyramid. An idea which we later took away but something that I would like to bring back in another game or an expansion. It added an interesting element but we felt it kept players definitely feeling defeated with nowhere to go when things just took a turn for the worse and threw off the balance of the game feeling close and exciting until the end. We would have nearly weekly meetings to go over ideas of cards in the game and the limitations that each player should have as well as their abilities. Google docs were expanded and entries were added and deleted. Months and months went by and during this time we recruited Peter Lazarski, whom I met virtually via a mutual friend, Tom Smolenski, and whom also wrote a blog post about my electronic persona being ripped off by Courtney Love (true story). His style for drawing beasts and visual references and a similar sci-fi background made him a perfect match. He could somehow take my abstract ideas and brainstorm notes and summon beasts and textures out of it. Not too long after I brought along Niklas Åkerblad whom I met via Erik Svedäng (Tri-Tri-Triobelisk) who worked with Erik on the hit iOS game Kometen and whom I also ended up releasing on my digital record label Swedish Columbia (see: El Huervo). Niklas had a rich world he has created behind his illustrations and I knew he would be the one who could focus on bringing the reliquary and the accompanying cards to life. With a bit of cajoling I had a few pieces done so the 2nd prototype could come to life.



Fast forward to now after countless sessions of game testing, shooting a Kickstarter video, a mockumentary "Ancient Aliens" style series of videos and calling in for favors everywhere we are here today. A huge part of it happening is the BoardGameGeek fans that came behind it and friends who spread it on Facebook, etc...

Now I sit with the final month or so ahead of me as I continue with my additional duties as in-house graphic designer and art director getting all the pieces together. Interesting things came and went like Columbia Games coming out and contacting us before the game was created to let us know that they felt the tentative name I was using, Swedish Columbia Games, was too close and could cause confusion in the marketplace. Fair enough, ultimately it was a blessing since I felt Swedish Columbia plainly didn't sound exciting enough. So now we stand at the cusp with a new small indie game company materializing around us, parts getting wrapped up, an accompanying soundtrack being made and me personally living in a new place (2nd new place since the game started)! I will be using this blog to speak about the parts in progress, reflect upon the game, other games, Kickstarter, whatever... feel free to interact in the comments!

Into the beyond!

- Shelby Cinca / Zoneplex

Links: Zoneplex Facebook, Zoneplex Twitter

Zoneplex
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Thu Apr 5, 2012 5:59 am
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