Game Designer Lockdown

About my work in these days of the lockdown.

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Ticket to TransAmerica ?!

Friedemann Friese
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First of all: I played my rail game last night and it is still a good one. I had some problems to memorize it right and I just looked at the files and the oldest file is from 14th October 2008, means this game is almost 12 years old. It is still at one publisher and I know the developer really wants it to be published and cannot convince the company to finally doing it. By now I think it is good idea to publish this as my next 2F-spiele game.

I remember showing it to (and playing with) Alan Moon to get an opinion if this is to close to Ticket to Ride and he claimed that he sees it more close to TransAmerica than to Ticket to Ride. Whatever it is, it is fun and one of my test players said: Yes it looks like Ticket to Ride and it has some remembrances to TransAmerica, but this one is better. Ok this is an even better reason to work on it. By now this game is 12 years old and I played it last time before in 2014. Some more tests, but I still think it is almost done. [It should because I gave it to another company.] And why not try to benefit from my archives.

Larry asked yesterday for the weight of Faiyum, but I cannot tell. This so much a theoretic value for me and not a value of quality to me. Has Power Grid a high weight because it is strategic or does it is even lower because there are not so many ways to victory, not so many different ways to score, not so many different options to choose, I cannot tell.

Yesterday I played Tapestry (spoiler-> two times: the first and the last time) and this game has such an easy structure: advance on one chart or get income. After 5 times income you are done. What does this mean for the weight. On the other hand there are so many things in this game. Which chart to advance on, which tech card to get, where to expand on the board, how to build up your capital. BGG says it has a weight 2.86/5 (Power Grid has 3.27). I still do not understand this concept. What does weight really measure.

But this is my main problem: There is almost no data to tell me if a game is good for me or not. BGG Top 50??? Most of my favorite games are not in this list. Hotness?? Only to tell that Tapestry is now on the previous owned pile. I never used weight.

On the other hand there are other things that might matter.
- Name of the Author can lead to : "interested" or "try to avoid"
- Company: Is an argument, because I normally know the developers of the companies and can tell how I like their work.
- Kickstarter: Mostly a reason to avoid a game

But my main argument is (and normally I can only tell after playing the game): If counting and calculating for VPs is more important than playing the game (theme or mechanism), this is almost everytime a reason for not liking the game.

Back to Larry. Yes Larry I know you for so many years now and luckily for you the weight of a game is a good measurement for you to like a game. [I really would like to have a similar guideline, that would lead to play better games and even sometimes would stop me wasting so much time on bad games. Luckily Tapestry was not waste of time, it still was very interesting to play this game, I even won and I can try to understand why so many people adore this game. And it is so easy to learn and to explain.]

But Larry to be short: Yes I think Faiyum is a game you will like!

Back to Tapestry:

The most interesting aspect on the "product" for me as a publisher and author was the one sheet "Anpassung der Zivilisationen". This is a sheet for every single civilization in the game to make it more balanced. This means you get a game of asymmetric civilizations and in the box itself there is already an errata to balance the civs, but even more interesting I went to the website and got version 1.2 for even better balance.

To be honest I started game design in 1992 and an errata was always a horrible thing to do (and I had to do it many times), but this feels like: It's not a bug, it a feature. You can download your newest errata (=patch) every time you play the game. Sorry but for my it feels like the game was not finished in the moment of publishing and the gamers are used as developers to make the game better. Maybe I'm old and do not see the benefit of this, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth.
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Fri Aug 21, 2020 11:47 am
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Back to work

Friedemann Friese
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Holidays are over but not school holidays for the kids, so work-time is still a very valuable resource to have.

Today I managed to work a lot. The Faiyum data had to be double-checked the last time, before going to the printer.

What is Faiyum?

Is it a deck builder??

Kind of. Every player has its own deck of cards and buys new cards for the deck. But you have your complete deck in your hand and play 1 card per turn. Newly acquired cards go directly into the hand and you can play them as a turn. (Buying a card is a turn as well). How to get your deck back?? If you run out of cards or out of valuable card-plays, you can decide to get back your cards, but in reverse the order you played them. Last played comes back first. You get 3 cards back for free, every single other card you want to have back will cost you 1$.

Yes and No to deck building!

Is it worker placement??

Kind of. We are building a structure together. Nobody owns anything (like Road & Boats). Cards allow us to put workers on the board. Harvesters to harvest spaces others only to settlements others only to workshops. If a space already has 1 worker, you cannot play one. This sound like worker placement, but you do not own any workers. If you need one, just take a neutral one. In administration you can remove two from the board to open the spaces for everybody. If you build a new settlement on a space with a worker, it cannot be used to place a worker until the worker vanishes and workers can even move over the board.

Yes and No to worker placement!

And then the use of the current and future market from Power Grid. 8 numbered cards in the market, but only the 4 lowest to be acquired. Ok no auctions just pay 3,4,5 or 7$ for the first 4 card, draw a new one and sort it in the 8 cards.

On the other hand it does not matter, because I think it is very good game. Strategy (you really have to look which cards to buy, the order to play them and where to build the common stuff), different ways to victory (only a few powerful cards and a fast cycle of them or a big hand and scoring a lot in the endgame only to name two different options), interactive but no "take-that" (if everything is owned by everybody nobody can steal something from you ), about 2 hours long.

After checking all the files today, I really look forward to see this published. (I even have an idea for an expansion)

But now I have to think of the next game after Faiyum (never stop...). By now I think I will be a rail-game (with transport and network building)

but this another day......
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Thu Aug 20, 2020 4:51 pm
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A secret wants to be told

Friedemann Friese
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This week was not as successful as I wished I could have been. Still not done with my tax stuff to be sorted. I felt not really healthy the week, whatever.

I tested Finshed! App a lot. I clicked BGG entries a lot. I'm at number 11111 now. Next week we just managed to put the kids to day care two more days. So next week the last week before holidays.

Feierabend looks great. I'm looking forward to see when the first reactions (hopefully positive) come in. The game for the US are on the ship, so this needs some time before they are there.

Today I worked on the next games rule book and glossary. After my holidays I gonna tell you more about it. By now it is a secret that the game will be called Faiyum and will be strategic 2 hour game with some deck building mechanics and using the current/future market from Power Grid. So don't tell anybody. It's a secret!! I will tell something about it after my holidays.

Maybe not all people understand why I think clicking all BGG entries is a good idea, but by now I'm so full of ideas, I for sure will design a new game soon. Probably I will stop this stupid clicking of BGG entries. Now I'm gonna work an an idea I had today seeing one of the BGG entries.

Today I found something strange: Thundercats. If you look at the images for this game. There are 3 different game boards. This entry took me a lot more time than usual. I connected to the BGG admins, because I think there are 2 or 3 different games included in this one entry.
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Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:13 pm
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I'm getting old

Friedemann Friese
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I do like both games awarded with the Spiel des Jahres award. This is not normal and much worse these are the two games I like best among the nominated.

Pictures is so much fun. My City not (for me). Pictures is just a game that feels to be designed as it is. My City feels so much designed to be good for the market. Polyominoes, legacy, family friendly.

I can not tell anything about Nova Luna, except I was not interested to ever play it.

Die Crew is a really good game and I still think it even could have been a Spiel des Jahres, but it is ok with me. King's Dilemma is very good to be nominated. Der Kartograph is not my favorite roll/flip and write game of the year. I like Trails of Tucana much better.

Strange but true, I like the chosen games. (getting old for sure)

In the list of BGG entries I'm now at #8.555. I see the next milestone of 10.000 entries but I'm still amazed and shocked about the rest. The first 10.000 of over 300.000. I would have never imagined that there are sooooo many game out the I have not ever heard of. Ok! I'm not a wargamer and there are so many war-games and so many games from (wargame-)magazines.

The are so many word games, so many trivia games. And all these expansions. The main problem of this process is my wishlist is growing dramatically. Today I just ordered 16 games from the BGG marketplace.

We discussed the problem that the BGG database is growing faster then my speed in clicking all that entries, but by now I'm still positive to deal with that. Another problem is do I have enough play-time to play all new games I buy. By now I have 156 unplayed games. Since last Essen I played 369 new to me different games. This is more than 1 new game a day. For sure I like to play new games and very often it is very much ok to play a lot of these games only once. More than a half of them I do not really want to play again. But now there is the main problem: I do not have the time to play all games I keep in my collection again. This is my biggest problem.

Sometimes I had the feeling playing all this new games is the reason to get a better and better game collection. This might be true, but a very good collection of games I do not play, because so many new games and now adding a lot of new to me old games. Never ending.

This is similar to my listening to music. Over 50% of time new music and hard to hear all my favorites, but this is much easier, because the music is always in my background.

Maybe I should design a new game: I do have a good idea in mind....

Today Feierabend should be produced at Ludo Fact. That does not mean you all can get it right now, because the games have to be delivered to another place for the 4X platform to be sold in Europe. The games for North America will be shipped and nobody knows how long this will take. But nevertheless the game-product is maybe existing right now. And my copies will be on their way. I'm excited.
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Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:43 pm
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Still waiting for the next week

Friedemann Friese
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I'm here again and it is the first day of the summer school holidays for the kids (not me!!). Now here are 3 kids (the neighbors boys is in) and I try to work.

But it is iPad time for the kids now. They play Brawl Stars right now. Some quality time for me.

Henning sent my the Feierabend: 2F-Spiele Digital-Convention today. Now I have the promo for the game already, waiting for the game. But this is not the waiting for next week. Next week there is one week (Monday - Friday) of childs care for both kids from 9:00 to 14:30. This is the longest time I can work for the last three months. Whatever it is time only for me!

I'm still working on my "project" of clicking all BGG entries one by one. Today I'm 1 month in (started on 15th of june, did not work yesterday). I started with 0 and there were already 312.838 board game entries in the database. Now I'm at 7.500 and there are 314.490. (Weihnachtstellereisbahn).

I started with 312.838 entries to click. With 7.500 in one month I will have 90.000 in one year. (I know the speed will not increase the longer I will do it). 3 years 270.000. 3,5 years = 315.000, yeah.

If I argue like Zenon in his paradox I will never reach the goal. Because when I'm there, there will be new entries. In 1 Month there are already 314.490 - 312.838 = 1.652. In 42 month this will be 69.384. Sounds frustrating. I will need another 9 months to get through this, but then there new games..... ad infinitum, but to argue right: In the beginning moment I had to do 312.838 and now I only have 302.990 left. Yeah! 5.848 per month! 312.838/5.848 = 53,5 month. Only 4 years and 5 month.[1 month already done] 2024 I'm coming...

I really don't know if I ever will reach this goal, but this is the only realistic method to do so. If I would have taken the ranking numbers I will miss games that overtake me and not all games are ranked and expansions are not ranked as well. Whatever next month I will do the next calculation.

Last blog I invented 2 new games (not in the database yet, I'm destroying my challenge by my own creativity ) and I did not manage to try them. But this is not important. Today there is not much concentration possible, because the kids are playing with each other but there are still asking me things every now and then. I cannot really focus on work in this situation, but next week.....
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Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:33 am
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Design some games at random

Friedemann Friese
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Today: I know there is a To-Do list, but I have some random ideas in my mind. Maybe it is the hangover from yesterday sports. The hurting muscles and the hurting brain. Sports, beer and funny cigarettes. A good mixture.

1) I just went to an old Knizia memory game, because yes I still try to get them all, there BGG entries. Idea for a memory game. Take numbers 1 "1", 2 "2", 3 times "3" and so on. We will have 1,3,6,10,15,21,28,36. Ahh I found a square number. I was curious if there is one, because the building of these numbers is n(n+1)/2, but 8*9/2 is square, because 9 is square and 8/2 is also square. Mathematical question? is there another one. This is always a product from 1 odd number with 1 even number. So the odd number has to be a square number and the even number has to be a square number times 2. Next chance to be is 25, does not work, because 24/2 = 12 and 26/2 = 13. Next possible number is 49, 48/2 = 24, but 50/2 is 25. Bingo!! What do we have here. 36 and 49*25 = 1225. To be honest I think taking 36 tiles for my game sounds more reasonable than taking 1225 tiles. What did I do here? I was thinking of the number of tiles and if I can put them in a square on the table. Fine I just designed a new memory variant:
Take 36 tiles: 1, 2,2, 3,3,3, 4,4,4,4, 5,5,5,5,5, 6,6,6,6,6,6, 7,7,7,7,7,7,7, 8,8,8,8,8,8,8,8.
Shuffle them and lay them in a square of 6x6. Taking turns: You can turn over as many tiles as long as they have the same number. If you have exactly the same number as the number written, you take them. If there is only one kind left no one gets it (I always thought memory is unfair in the end, when you get the last pair for free, I don't want to have something like that in my design.) Whoever scored the most tiles wins. I don't know if this is a good game, but I just wanted to show this as an example how sometimes this job works. Today is one of the days for ideas.

Next idea:

2) I like to manipulate turn order. Every player has 3 markers in their color. Take one marker from each player shuffle the first round turn order. Do the same for the second round. and then the third round. Every player gets a set of fighting cards 1-5.
Game: First player--> look at the turn order. That player announces one marker of another player to fight against. Both players choose one of their cards simultaneously. Whoever played the highest card wins (1 beat the 5). The winner takes the marker from turn order, the looser gets both cards. (With ties nothing happens) Now the turn order track has one player less. So the looser has only 2 times left to play. Next player in turn order, the same move. Last man standing, means last man with a marker on the turn order. (I don't know if this can happen, but if you run out of cards, you loose and have to take away all you markers from the turn order.) Whenever turn order comes to the end, just start from the beginning. This is a real new game and it has to be tested if the numbers are right : 3 markers in the beginning (has it to depend on the number of players, number of players for this game can be really high up to 10 or even 12 players.) // are 5 cards enough?? // can there happen a tie with the last two players only holding the same card in their hand?

This evening we are meeting friends, hope to try it.

I know I know I should do something else, but this is so much fun....
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Tue Jul 14, 2020 10:26 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

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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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