Game Designer Lockdown

About my work in these days of the lockdown.

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Back to work...

Friedemann Friese
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To-do list:

-- check the cards for the Unpublished Prototype to be published in fall. I have to calculate all the values to think if the game is balanced. By now I know the game is 99% balanced and the VP scores of the players are similar to each other (play testers already played it a lot). Beginners may not get as many points, but there should be a learning curve. Nut the last 1% has to be done. There are 2 cards I want to think about again.

-- beat test the Finished! app. Not only playing it and trying to beat David Arnott's highscores, but really looking for bugs. One bug is still actual. A very rare case. If you build up a future and all card from the presence move to the score pile and the draw pile runs out, then the app does not stop. It tries to get the cards from the future ---> crash. But Eric (Hi, Eric) will solve it. He just implemented an Undo button. This is not the easiest job. I'm happy he has to solve it ;-)

-- Feierabend will hit the market soon, and there are some things to do: designer's diary, a german shop solution to be established....

So much to do, so little time. The last week before 6 week summer holidays (for the kids, no school). I only have 90 minutes left to do my work.

On the other hand I'm now at BGG entry #7100. I started almost a month ago (15th june) if I keep this speed, I only need 3,5 more years to get to the end...
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Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:25 am
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Crisis 2020

Friedemann Friese
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My challenge to click every single BGG entry is now at #6200. Eric Snider asked me if I found something interesting and today I had something really strange. Game #6153: Crisis: 2000 is a game published 1994. A vision for 6 years in the future, but in 2007 this came out: Crisis 2020. It is called: Crisis 2020 / America divided.

I'm not from the US, but in our news here in Europe there is a lot of wording these times that: the USA (aka America) is divided right now in 2020, maybe the Simpsons were right and Lisa is still waiting....

Sometimes it is not possible to not get political. Today a wannabe dictator from (south-)America got infected by a mostly harmless flu. The news say we should not have Schadenfreude, because if he really has a fast and unheavy illness, this will only make it worse. My problem is now: Do they say I should hope he will get ill seriously....

Now something completely different:

For Feierabend I want to write a Designer's Diary, because the game will come out in 10 to 14 days and I should promote it. Or should I say inform the gamer's if this is game for them or not.

What should be in the Diary:

- It started with the idea of doing a worker unplacement. Or inverse worker placement. A very mechanical idea.

- But the next step was the thematic one: Let's place the workers on non working spaces. Do an after-work(er) placement. The rest is kind of easy.

- A quote from a friend of mine came into my mind: If I want to have success I should add "Beer, Boobs and motor bikes" [now this blog is not only about politics, but also sex, only religion is missing to be thrown to another forum, OMG ].

- The question was now: What kind of worker placement spaces should be there: We need a standard place: a bed for sleeping in front of the TV. But also a pub is needed. The game was designed before COVID-19, so the pub is crowded, no limit for workers. Both of these spaces are unlimited.

- On an abstract point of view: What do you get from after-work: It's of course not money, this would be a worker placement, so it must be relaxation (get unstressed). So a currency must be relaxation or stress. But money is also needed. And we need sex, so we need partners. (As I know from bridge: You need a good hand or a good partner! (like sex))

- Have a look on the spaces: Simple spaces for relaxation like fishing of jogging, without paying anything, just pure relaxation. Motorbikes!!! I decided to have motorbikes to make a ride with your partner (was this already a pun??), so you need a partner to use this space. An we need a space to get a partner, so I decided to take a blind date spot.

- What else is better for relaxation to do in your free time: amusement parks (expensive), holidays (also expensive), sex! (with a partner), so there is this special motel to get a lot of relaxation (you only go there with a partner) and it costs 6$ (six dollars, a pun??).

- Now I had my worker placement spaces. I had the idea that you can place more than one worker at a time in the pub or sleeping space. This was leading to the "problem" that players are done with placing their workers at different times. So I decided that you can get your workers back, when you have no more to play. Last week I played Everdell the first time and was surprised that this is used there as well. Ok now all people will say that I copied it and yes I'am later with this than Everdell, sounds reasonable, but it was a parallel thing.

- In usual worker placement games you have sometime the starting player space. Do not need it with the fact to get workers back, when all are placed. Another thing is to get more workers, but this is ok in a game where you hire workers to do your work and try to pay them a little money to get the most benefit out of them. But here: We are the workers and we want to relax.

- Then there was the biggest step: Yes we are the workers and we want to relax from the stressy work. But I only have to relax so much, because my work stresses me so much. Why not fight for better working conditions. A new currency for the game "was born": strike markers. Now we have a new space for going to the union to get more strike markers. And in the beginning of the game you're not allowed to have holidays, you have to fight for it. You have to work 70 hours a week and this is stress, so fight for less work time. You get paid, but not enough for long holidays or anything else. So fight for it. Of course your women get paid less than your men. So fight for it. Maybe you should even fight for a stronger union to get more strike markers. Now I have an engine building part to the game, fine.

- Some later ideas were added: go to the pub to work a second shift, for more money but more stress as well. To get retired workers, when the work-week-time gets lower. You are forced to got to the pub if your level of stress is to high. This is sooooo thematic. The only thing you can do is to drink, if your level of stress is to high....

Now I have to go to the dentist with my son.... No more blog today!
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Wed Jul 8, 2020 9:42 am
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When will I ever work normally again...

Friedemann Friese
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By now the two kids are at home. School is not really happening: 2 hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday where the kids are off. In almost all other times at least one kid is at home. Ok there is the Thursday with afternoon care.

But for Feierabend I have to write a designer's diary until end of month and some administrations to be done for the new way of distributing games in these times now.

The game for fall is ordered, because if not we wouldn't get a production in fall anymore. But the rules are not done now, I have to do it, but Henning and I are doing this together.

Today I had to go to the car repair, so my morning time for work is gone. The main problem: No spare time = no time for creativity.

But what is done: We do have a scoring rule for the Finished! APP. I'm kind of happy, but it still benefits long games with pushing the 48 to the future very often.

I succeed in my plan to look at every BGG entry (can be done while the kids are around) I'm at #5800 now. To see all these trivia, roll and move, war, word and branded games is very interesting. Sometimes really interesting things pop up. Some of the early games of well-known authors look very interesting and I did sometimes not even know how early some of my colleagues started their career.

Sometimes I think I want to make a game that is easy like just roll-and-move. You have nothing else to do than rolling and moving. I still think it is possible to make an interesting game out of it. It is like the idea I had for the fast forward games, to start the games without rules to be learned. But with the kids around, no time to focus on it....
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Tue Jul 7, 2020 2:59 pm
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Scoring rules changes games

Friedemann Friese
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Every single day I work on the APP for Finished. Eric Snider is doing it. In Finished! the only goal is to get the 48 cards sorted before you run out of coffee. It is my absolute most played game in the world ever. I really play it every day at least once. Before Eric came to code it, I played the physical version. By now I still have about 10 worn out games. You can tell the 48 by its back in all of these games, because it is the card to be played most. The 1,2,3,4 looks like new, the higher the numbers get, the older they look.

After playing a lot I counted the leftover coffees as bonus to compare if I have done better or worse. I also counted in the leftover candies, but I really wanted to have a score to keep track of. In the game there are 10 candies (used a action points) and whenever you have 10 candies and would get more they are lost.

But playing it a lot, leads to have a lot of candy and of course in the end for scoring better I wanted to have all 10 candies leftover.

Later I thought it could be nice to score extra points when you have all candy but would get more. So I includes some scoring tokens for that. In the end it was: 1 point per token, 2 points per leftover candy and 25 points for each leftover coffee. The most important thing should be having coffees leftover, because this is really better if you need less coffee.

For me this was absolutely fine. Because winning was kind of standard. 10 candies leftover standard. The number of coffees 2 or 3 (I played the game with 5 candies to start and 5 coffees.) A score of over 50 was good and everything near 100 rocks.

Now we are doing this on the iPad (I play it on the iPad) and Eric found out that sometimes a good game does not count as many points as a game that felt worse. And yes he is right, because of getting more points I tend to play this game as long as possible to get more and more points, because +1 point per candies over 10 is unlimited and if I manage to keep playing and just pushing the 48 in the future again and again, I will score better.

I changed the game! Finished! was a game about sorting a deck 48 cards and the goal was to do this. After playing it as often as I did, it became a game to manipulate the deck to score better. hmm?!

But we wanted to have a scoring. First we changed the scores to add a base score for winning, because just doing nothing gave more VPs then playing (for newbies), because if you just play without paying any candy you will not win, but you will have 10 leftover candies and a lot of points for extra overpaid candies, but you will not win. Adding a base score for winning and giving each card you have points was much better. For me it was never necessary because I played only for the win and only secondary for points, but if you have a leaderboard this has to be done.

I reworked the points to 200 VP for winning. 10 VP each card. This is 480 + 200 for finishing. 5 points for leftover candy, additional 50 points. each coffee leftover is 50 points and we play this game on the beginners level: 7 start coffee and 7 start candy. 4 leftover coffee is not unusual = 200 points.

200+480+50+200 = 930 points is a good base to have a highscore around 1000. And I played a lot more and got my personal highscore up to 996.

But still the game was changed. You get more points for longer games than for fast games. Eric suggested to give more points for sequences to be score to the scoring pile. 5 points for the first card, +6 (second) etc.

This changed the game immense (and he really beat me). I got 1198 and he jumped up to 1222. I disliked the scoring before he overtook me, but it is very difficult to consider if I dislike it because I was overtaken me or because it is not good.

It took me some time to analyze to find out what the problem is: With this kind of scoring, you play the game to keep the playing pile as big as possible (and sort it). But you really do not want to score cards early and when you sorted all the cards then you get a very long sequence to score. (again a scoring game and not a game to get things sorted fast). Leftover coffee (50 points) is not to important anymore, because I had a sequence of 15 to 48 and the 48 scored 38 points. 48 + 47 scored 75 points. This is more than a leftover coffee. I hope Eric agrees that this focuses on the wrong parts of the game. (But he is also emotionally influenced, because he beat me the first time in the leaderboard)

I think going back to not getting anything, if you already have all candies and would get more candy is necessary, because this was always a problem in all scoring methods.

But I want to have a more diverse scoring, to avoid ties in the leaderboard.

The big question: Is it better to gain a candy and spend it than just not getting anything and spending anything. I think it should. So I should award points for getting candies. Maybe it works just that way: Get 1 Point for each gained candy (if you already have 10 candies, no candy no points, sorry).

I would like to have the actual scoring:
200 per win
10 per card on the scoring pile
50 per coffee left
5 per candy left
1 per candy gained....

This is so much my topic. Scoring! Scoring! Scoring! I don't like point salad games (surprisingly I like the game Point Salad), because most authors add to many ways to score to their system. You have to focus on the scoring and no longer on the game mechanic or mechanism.

The first time I had this feeling was Ra. I really really like the mechanism with the auction and the suns, but to many ways to score. I will never ever play this again. To much math involved. (the little arithmetics in Power Grid are nothing in comparison).

I know people tend to like these scorings a lot, but I'm still the boss of my games. On an abstract view on games there are only two kinds of games: Scoring games or racing games. Scoring games have a game end independent from scoring (more important whoever ends the game is not the person winning the game) and when this happens, the players score. Race games have a goal to achieve and whoever achieves it wins.

I know there are mixed up version, but I'm still a fan of racing games. Finished! is a racing game, because you try to beat the game, like Friday. Power Grid is a race game for the most cities powered. Don't be tricked by the money tiebreaker it is racing!

Ahhhh game ends and designing them, is one of the most important parts of game designing itself. Engine building stops to be interesting in the moment where the game ends (depending on the benefit, 1 or 2 rounds earlier.) Games tend to change drastically in their ends. Power Grid is very successful, also because of the game end. The fact that you cannot really tell if this is the last round or if there is one more. Please keep your money hidden to guarantee this great experience.

IMO saving the game end by using a lot of scoring is the poorest design attempt to solve the problem.
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Thu Jul 2, 2020 2:28 pm
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Back!

Friedemann Friese
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No friday work, oops.
No monday work, oops.

There is always something I worked on, but these days were not really for working. Yesterday we had a visit from a friend and friday we played Mice and Mystic the next chapter with the kids.

Today I had to check the number of pieces for my Unpublished Prototype for fall. I played a game with 4 sock puppets (me, me, me and me) just to see how much money is needed, roads, settlement, resources...

This is very important, because we do not want to order to many pieces to be put in the game and not enough is not good, too. First it would increase the price unnecessary and the second will annoy the players playing the game. This evening at game night I think I should play it another time to look if the values I found are kind of reasonable.

I'm now at BBG entry 3.400 (or something) and this is of course a trip to the past. BGG was founded when I was already some time in the scene, so the start entries are in the time were I was already playing a lot.
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Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:30 pm
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312.838

Friedemann Friese
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Worked on the rule for the Unpublished Prototype game for fall. Henning sent the first draft and I added my first comments. This is the start of the very successful ping-pong work between Henning an me. Yesterday I just read the cards to look for some mistakes, they're getting less and less.

Am I stupid that I started the idea of clicking all BGG game entries. Today there are 312.838. I started this on the 15th. Today we are at 25th. 10 days and I'm at 2700. This is less than 1%. Ok it might be possible to have 1% in 10 Days, 1000(-10) days to go. This is estimated 3 years. Not bad! My Friday project took 5 years. Possible.

Yes some people can say this is procrastination, but it generates new ideas. So others (including me) say it is a creative method. Whatever it is, it does not help to get the temperature in my office down.

My son gave me an interesting present for my last birthday. It was a game box. In this game box there is a prototype of one of his games. And the donation includes to work together on this game. I really think it was a gift he gave it to himself to have me doing some game design together with him.

The game itself is worth working. It is tile laying deck building game. I made all the computer files already and we had our first changes. Now we have some more changes untested, because I have to print the new files and glue them. My son gave me some work for birthday. Weird!

I'm still waiting for the reaction go the company I sent the actual prototype of the word association game.
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Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:39 pm
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A gamer at heart

Friedemann Friese
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Same as every year. The days are getting warmer and I work less. There are reasons to live in northern Germany. The summer is not so hot. It is not my weather. Yesterday no work. Ok there was a hangover involved and maybe it is hard to work today, because yesterday it was a birthday from a friend of mine to be celebrated, but I sit here in my office and it is getting warmer and warmer.

I cannot stand all the people coming up to me : "Oh it's just fine weather!". Believe me no it's not. [The funniest thing about these people believe, the warmer it gets the better the weather gets. There is a maximum temperature for going over is losing the state of good weather. But the people say: "It's just so good weather, maybe a bit to hot!" What did you say "good, but", sorry but "good, but" means "bad" in my world.] The only thing I can do is to go to the lake and do nothing. But I'm a gamer at heart. This is ok for one or another day, but not every day.

Whatever: Henning sent me the first draft of the rules for the next game and some work on the cards. So enough to do. Maybe I'll find a dark and cold place to do my work....
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Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:25 am
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Why not?!

Friedemann Friese
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Since starting this blog:

I just added two new games to BGG. My 5x15 is kind of solid and I would like to see it published, but maybe there is a chance for doing this as an APP.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/2451138/help-test-finis...

Eric is doing this just for Finished! right now, but there is no reason not to try 5x15. On the other hand, maybe I just want to have a nice version with tiles and a drawing bag. This would be fine and the table space would be not as much as if you use cards.

The Fight! is just a game. It works, but it is not really necessary to be published, as long as I do not get a better ides to deal with it.

I announced my new board game Feierabend to be published in August.

I talked a lot about my Unpublished Prototype and the solo campaign for it.

Since last week I have a new game. It is a word association / connotation game. Very easy, very portable, good with two players, easy setup. And I tested it in different groups right now.

New times: Just to talk about my working process right now. It is of course a special project. I did this years ago with my Freitag-blog. What does it do to me?! It changes my work, because by now it is not only working. It is reflecting about my work and how to tell other what I'm going to do now.

So "Why not?!": I just sent my game to apublisher to offer it for publishing and hoping for a contract. If this game will be published it will be my fastest design process I ever had.

If life gives you lemons.....

If life gives you COVID-19-lockdown, try something new....
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Mon Jun 22, 2020 11:04 am
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A blog each day....

Friedemann Friese
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Yes the idea is: Every working day to post here! But there are these days where I think: "I have nothing to say!", but what happened:

[Force yourself to do some work, works sometimes as a inspiring method, whatever.]

Yesterday I invented a complete new idea for a new game. Again this game has some similarities to successful games I like to play: Codenames, Decrypto and Just One (Yesterday I mentioned Dixit, but this is not really right).

The same but different has its own problems: Codenames was first and a big success, but Decrypto and Just One have their own right to be there, to create a new way of linking words with other words. So I did my own!

{As I sometimes think Reiner Knizia had once the goal to be published by every existing game company in the world, I know that I think my goal is to invent a game in every possible gaming category. To be honest it is more like to go to unexplored terrain to me. I like that.}

We played this game 8 rounds yesterday. You have to think rounds like in "Just One!" [similar length] and as in "Just One!" it is cooperative and we were at about 50% success and agreed with more experience we could get to over 80% success. It was fun, I felt new, it was really good. Now I want to make theme sets like professions, food, cities and countries, persons. I think it could work like that. I started yesterday night, after game night, with professions. I already have 36. I think a pack of 60 cards would be nice, no more material needed. 9 cards are necessary for the game structure, so 51 cards for the word or picture cards. I'm not sure by now if only word or with illustration or only pictures.

It is like Reiner Knizia said in his latest Interview: He has a drawer for every game idea and he opens once or twice every drawer to work on the idea. And finishing a game is always the toughest work, so he sometimes creates new drawers, because this is more fun. With this it feels like that.

The last days I really worked hard on my Unpublished Prototype [the other one], but now I have to do something else. So I have a new Unpublished Prototype.
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Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:46 am
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Done, but not ready!

Friedemann Friese
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In my solo campaign for my Unpublished Prototype I'm done, means I just finished the campaign, but the last achievement might be to strong. The game itself felt very strange. I had not so much time to play, because going back to family. In the game I was very much limited by the material in the game box, because the achievement was too good I could build more than there is in the box. Right now I have to decide if this is a bug or a feature. Because you get another challenge: only use what's in the box on the other hand it feels not as good as the games before. Right now it is like it is. I can just work on something new.

Today I had an idea in the same area like Codenames, Decrypto and Dixit. It is always dangerous I know, because these games are huge successes and it is most likely my game will not be quite as good, but I'm gonna try it this evening. (Hopefully it works better than The Fight! The Fight! has the same problem to be not as good as the games it will be compared to.)

Whatever I'm at bgg entry #1600 today, keep going. I know 300.000 entries is a very optimistic goal, but I do have time..... It is work because looking for games is looking for ideas and today I had a new one.....
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Thu Jun 18, 2020 3:35 pm
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