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Summoner Wars Online Beta 0.6.6 deployed

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
Ohio
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New beta released, a few small fixes:

* Crash fixed related to units being referenced in code that weren't on the map.
* Occasional ability to Raise the Dead twice removed.
* Email notifications sent less often - if you've already been notified on other games but haven't taken your turn, you're not sent a new notification.
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Mon May 24, 2021 8:11 pm
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Summoner Wars Online Beta 0.6.5 deployed

Joseph Arthur Ellis
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A few bug fixes are in:
* Spirit of the Phoenix fixed to show the full name when zoomed.
* Event text properly shows symbols.
* Bug fixed breaking some games related to forcing (example: Breakers control an Undead Archer, destroy a unit via a force away from a Deceiver, Undead Archer soul shifts, freezes.)
* Primal/Frenzy fixed to always allow legal attacks against enemy units.
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Fri May 21, 2021 6:24 pm
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Research as a Game Design Tool

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
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Summoner Wars Release

Summoner Wars Online Beta 1.6.4 released:
* Forceful Attack works on units only.
* Frenzy and Primal Fury require adjacent enemy cards on both ends.
* When a card is returned to the battlefield after being discarded/destroyed, it is considered a new unit and so could sort of attack twice in 1 turn.
* (Big one, most likely to lead to problems) All card text is now generated by the app rather than from an image.

The point of that last bullet is to get a step closer to playtesting in a playtester-only version of Summoner Wars online, and for translating the app into other languages.

Playtesters have been patiently waiting while I've been in a lull, so my next priority is actually coding the Cloaks so they can start up again.

Otherwise, the top priority is still sealing in secret information.

Research As a Game Design Tool

I've listened to and read plenty of board game design discussions and tips. One tip that I can't recall hearing is that you should read about the subject matter you're designing for.

Regardless of how deep or detailed your game is, you should gain some perspective by reading books on your theme before you get in too deep. Reading is informative, can help you avoid stupid mistakes, and it can be inspiring, and even the smallest improvement your game gets from your research will have been worthwhile.

(Note: I'm not a great reader, but I am able to push through when I have a good reason. If you just hate reading, then consider some other form of research like audiobooks and/or documentaries.)

Before Forgotten Waters, my main contact of pirates was the Monkey Island video game series, a favorite of mine, as well as the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Even though we knew we weren't going for a realistic style, I set out to read some books to gain more knowledge.

First I read Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, and I have to say, it's still a phenomenally entertaining book. Then I read The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodward, a history book. Then I read On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers.


Even though we weren't aiming for a historical setting, all those books helped shape how I thought about piracy and what your typical pirate was like. In the end, it was On Stranger Tides that had the biggest impact on Forgotten Waters. In that novel, the emergence of magnetized iron has caused magic to slowly recede from the Caribbean. This inspired me to imagine a world where magic used to be commonplace, but something had pushed it out and made life ordinary over time.

I pitched Isaac on the idea of our first scenario being about a captain whose mission is to bring magic back into the world by finding a magical stone. Isaac added the ideas of the place "beyond the ocean's edge" from which no ship had ever returned, and how the stone was necessary to go there. If you've played Forgotten Waters, you know that became our introduction scenario and the plot device that framed the entire game.

Now, as I daydream in my spare time about the game I've mentioned previously about experiencing a space 4x game from the viewpoint of those being discovered and colonized, I've gotten to the point where I need to read again. I've got a vacation in a week and a half, and I've ordered the following books so far:
* Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism by Noenoe K Silva
* An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
* Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt

If anybody else knows a good book on the topic of imperialism from the perspective of those with less power, please let me know. Especially instances that don't involve the United States, since I'm even more ignorant on that front. Even in a space fantasy world like the one I'm creating, understanding the real history can improve the game. Even in a fairly abstract game like the one I'm creating, even a small tweak to the theme could go a long way, and I expect these books to have a much bigger influence than that.
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Thu May 20, 2021 8:45 pm
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Playtesting for Fun and Profit

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
Ohio
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Welcome back to the Plaid Hat Tech and Games blog. This week, I'm talking about the finalization of the Starter Set factions in the beta, localizing our content, and the early parts of game design.

Tundra Orcs / Phoenix Elves Complete

Thanks to all who played Tundra Orcs and Phoenix Elves during the last week! They have now been finalized, with the final change just deployed: +1 life for Grognack, putting him as the hardiest summoner by far at 14 life - FIVE more life than his nemesis Queen Maldaria.

It was a weird experiment to finalize the playtesting in public. Overall, I don't consider it ideal for the consumer. But it was REALLY helpful in this case.

We're hoping that in the future, our Summoner Wars playtesting will mostly be on a private version of Summoner Wars Online, as it's WAY easier to play for our playtesters and us too on this platform. It was pretty neat this past weekend to just get in like 10 games myself, without any serious effort. We've got Cloaks up for playtesting next, and they are in a fairly mature state already, so we're definitely going to try that.

Next up on my slate for Summoner Wars Online is prepping for translators and sealing secret hand/deck state.

Localization

Besides basic Summoner Wars Online stuff, translations is the name of the game for me over the past week.

Working with translators is a big part of my job, and a big part of the job for our graphic designer, Kendall, as well. I don't know how other publishers function, but to us, a lot of the way we make things work is working with partners in other regions and getting our games all over the world in a lot of languages. Forgotten Waters is published in seven languages, and we're not done there yet. And our games have a TON of text to translate, now both physical and digital translations.

I spend time every week in emails and tools helping get translations on our digital stuff right. Forgotten Waters itself, our remote play app for Forgotten Waters, our Forgotten Waters DLC, and now Summoner Wars Online is stuff I'm working with translators on currently. If you want to do web development, get ready to learn a lot about localization, and to spend a lot of time on it.

Early Game Design

I mentioned a couple weeks ago having interest in making an imperialist game from the opposite perspective - the players playing as planets being absorbed into a mega, galaxy-wide empire.

I've had this idea for a long time, but I think mentioning it in this blog helped spark some real gameplay ideas for me. The players will have access to the megapowers of the empire, getting access to better turns - but only one player has access to each megapower at a time. This is kind of a Puerto Rico/Twilight Imperium system - when you use the power, other players can follow, but you control the timing and get an advantage in the action.

I love the action timing puzzles of games like Twilight Imperium, and I'm hoping this game can do a lot of that. Using your turn's action as an important resource, as well as how long initiatives you start, will be a key thing.

Generally, this is how my game design process is - start with theme, then focus on mechanics, then circle back to theme. As I was sketching out ideas for these mechanics, I started to wonder if some of the stuff I was coming up with really connected to the theme - and thinking about how each mechanic relates specifically to planets being absorbed into an empire helps keep me focused and keep the design unique. One thing I came up with last week - besides some other standard resources, planets start the game with 6 of a non-renewable resource that represents their cultural uniqueness and the resources unique to their planet. The resource is treated as a wild, but unlike other resources, this resource never goes up - you have your 6 to use, and then it's used up forever.

I love great game design mechanics, but I'm still amazed at people who say they design mechanics first. I always need the theme to guide me and inspire me.
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Tue May 11, 2021 6:07 pm
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Summoner Wars Online Beta 0.6.2 Deployed

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
Ohio
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Full blog post later today, but wanted to do a quick deployment:

Bug fixes:
* Colleen's reduction is now AFTER considering some of the more "inherent" strength boosts (like Frost Bolt).
* Colleen doesn't affect friendly priests.

Tundra Orc adjustment:
* Smashers at 4/6 for 3. This is where we had them for forever. Changed them for the beta at my request, and I have finally come around to others' perspectives after playing games all weekend.
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Mon May 10, 2021 3:25 pm
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Summoner Wars Online Beta 0.6.1 Deployed

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
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Ohio
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New updates! Now we've got bug updates, and PE/TO updates. 0.6.1-beta.

Bugs:
* Game properly fits on extra wide monitors
* If you are viewing your own loss and click next, it doesn't redirect you to the same game.
* Gulldune is fixed.
* Attacks fixed during Blinding Flare/Wild Strike so that Life Drain etc don't add hits.
* Magic capped at 15
* UI tweaks for Ice Ram, Structural Shift, and Telepathic Command
* UI fixed to show correct active events and Valna card draw at very beginning of turn when connecting to a game.

PE/TO Changes:
* Primal Fury works on all enemy cards
* For Glory 0-cost
* Shonk -1 cost
* Smasher -1 cost, -1 life
* Blinding Flare 1-cost
* Ember Mage in PE starting setup replaced with Ember Archer
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Fri May 7, 2021 11:16 pm
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Fire and Ice

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
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(Possibly) for a limited time, try out the Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs on Summoner Wars Online!

Besides the usual bugs in our beta, these cards are NOT yet locked in, we'll be watching the plays come in.

Other fixes deployed:
* See your opponent's name on the game screen
* A "go to next game" button
* Carriers get magic when destroying non-units.
* Elut-Bal/Soul Shift bug fixed.
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Wed May 5, 2021 6:52 pm
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Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs Preview Incoming

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
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Ohio
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Welcome back to the Plaid Hat Tech and Games blog!

Beta Update

Just over a week ago, we launched the Summoner Wars Online beta - all 6 master set factions have been available to play, both online and and for single player mode. They certainly weren't perfect - I've deployed a flurry of fixes over the past week, and still have some rules bugs to get to. A lot of great players have been helpful in sending in bugs and we've steadily improved.

The vast majority of games played are single player, but we have had close to 1000 multiplayer games too, yay! So far Savanna Elves are leading the pack in win percentage and Vanguards are in last - but all the win percentages are in a reasonable range, and if we would've been forced to guessed, we would've guessed new players would struggle more against Abua while struggling to figure out Sera, so it may well be temporary.

Meanwhile, yesterday I deployed some under the hood logic changes to the game and it caused a bunch of problems - I quickly got a ton of emails of players who got stuck in the middle of an action, and several new deployments in a row eventually fixed it. The reason for these under the hood deployments were a little surprise for tomorrow...

Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs Incoming

I've moved the starter set factions up the priority list, and we're going to launch them in the beta tomorrow. We've got a few more days in which we can adjust the numbers and text, so we've decided to let the beta players get their hands on them and get some real stats to back up how they're doing. Part of this is a split in the data - we mostly FEEL they're balanced, but the Tundra Orcs were coming up short in win percentage. We'd like to take the next few days and figure out who's right, us or the playtest stats.

I don't think this will be the typical process, but our faithful beta players deserve a treat. Look for the Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs to appear sometime tomorrow. I'll post here again tomorrow when the beta launches (as well as a couple more rules fixes, plus the much wanted "go to next game" button and opponents' names on the table).

Community Goals

Oh yeah, also, our initial pre-order window closed last week, and we were able to reach the community goal of 1000 full subscribers, meaning we get to add 2 promo mercs to the first printing of the starter set! Yay!

I have seen titles of threads (but haven't read them) comparing our numbers to kickstarter and thinking our numbers are a disappointment. There are a lot of reasons we've never used kickstarter before - how we want to spend our time, what we want to do for our customers, where we want our customers' money to go, our relationship to brick and mortar stores, and more. But it's an easy argument to make that we're marketing games with a hand tied behind our back in order to do what we think is best.

You might be surprised to learn that these 1000 subscribers (plus a few hundred Master Set-only orders) is a fairly normal number of pre-orders for us, in fact very close to our Forgotten Waters pre-orders. But at the same time, every game we've ever had get 1000 pre-orders has been a huge hit after it was released - which you can't at all say about all kickstarters, even those that get 4000 or more backers. So we feel good. Sure, we would've loved 3k+ (I wanted those upgraded dice myself!) but we're used to hustling for attention and we feel great about where the game is at, especially that 1000 of you have told us that you're willing to pick up each expansion as they come out - that's a huge help to keeping the game alive longterm.

Maybe we can build momentum, and we can eventually sell those upgraded dice on our store. Selfishly, I really want them.
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Tue May 4, 2021 10:54 pm
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Summoner Wars Online Beta 0.5.5 deployed

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
Ohio
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A couple quick fixes deployed today!
* Trampling through something multiple times now only does 1 damage.
* Guarding Spirits no longer affects champions.

The same small list of to-dos from yesterday still stands.

Thanks all, your plays are helping me a ton.
Joe
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Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:43 pm
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Summoner Wars Online Beta 0.5.4 deployed

Joseph Arthur Ellis
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Besides my longer Monday updates, this blog will now serve as an informal change log for beta. Here's the updates I just deployed:

Lots of rules fixes!
* More purge options (choose units not adjacent to enemies, choose not to damage)
* Move through the same space twice in one move.
* Trample only triggers if the trampler moves off of the unit (ie if it's destroyed first, it doesn't get to trample)
* Destroy units properly when chant of entangling is discarded
* Give magic for Blast and a couple other destroy effects
* Carriers shouldn't infect structures
* Fixed game crashing when trampler is destroyed while trampling.

Still 2 rules errors I know of that I need to look into:
* Certain combos of starting your turn and undoing allows raising the dead twice
* Remove ability to draw with Valna after taking actions.

Also the highest priority, hopefully before the end of the week:
* Add "next game" button in-game.
* Add name of user you're facing in-game

Please send bugs found to swbugs@plaidhatgames.com.
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Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:18 pm
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