Plaid Hat Tech and Games

Updates and musings about what I'm working on at Plaid Hat Games.
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Beta ready to go, and a new list

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
Ashland
Ohio
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Microbadge: Summoner Wars fanMicrobadge: Defcon StatusMicrobadge: RaxxonMicrobadge: Ra fanMicrobadge: Star Wars: Rebellion fan
Well it's 12:30am my time, so I'm a half hour late on my promise to get these blogs out each Monday. Beta update immediate below, with some thoughts on games and worldviews at the bottom.

Beta Update

I'm happy enough with the Summoner Wars Online beta to launch! We'll do so Tuesday morning and send out a newsletter at some point.

It's beta, but it's here! Server resources are still a big question mark, AI isn't doing much "custom" when playing as the other 4 factions, but they're all there. Thanks for bearing with me. I saw a comment regarding Forgotten Waters that we should make it into an online app because clearly we have a good "team" already to do so. Well I'm the only programmer, haha. There is no "team" in that sense although all the staff has helped a ton with audio, graphics, and testing.

Things that are done (or at least in an initial working state):
* 6 factions
* (rough) AI for all 6 factions
* Public matchmaking (will find you a match for your timer length, and not a mirror match)
* Private games
* Timers (games can be 45 minutes per player, or 3 days, or 14 days)
* Email notifications (send them every 10 minutes, so don't rely on them for 45 minute games)

Here's my initial rough list of tasks moving forward, roughly in the order I want to do them:

* Integrate audio for 4 other factions. (Donald has completed the audio, I just need to add it.)
* Make secret state - it's a disappointment to me that this had to get pushed off - the game still can't be played competitively because all the card info is sent to everyone under the hood. But I'm working on it!
* Basic profile and global stats (this is easy but I don't want to put this up until card info is secret, so people aren't motivated to cheat)
* Add Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs
* Compact data size of state, open up possibility of saving the entire game in the database instead of just the last turn
* Improved AI
* Add deck building tool for custom games
* Push notifications
* More complex rankings and matchmaking
* Add first single player campaigns
* Ready Windows/Mac Steam version

Those last 2 bullets are a lot more work and will involve a lot of subtasks themselves. All this is, of course, in addition to fixing the myriad of bugs that are about to come my way. I HOPE people are able to create matches without too much trouble - we'll see!

Games and worldviews

I took my 3-year-old son to the playground this evening. We climbed to the top of the playground and decided to play pretend knights. We were in our castle, and would see monsters out and about. We'd go down the slide, grab our swords (sticks), and he'd jump on his horse (his little balance bike). Then we'd go chase down the monster (a dumpster, or light pole, etc) and fight it until it declared (in my best monster voice) that we had won.

I'm troubled by the default American worldview that I myself swim in, which casts those who have as the good guys who deserve nothing but safety and happiness, and those who are outside our circle as the bad guys who probably deserve whatever bad stuff befalls them. The worldview pollutes immigration views, policing views, and many other areas of American life.

When I make up games with my kid, these worldviews still permeate the play I improvise. Cops and robbers. Knights protecting the castle from monsters. Harmless on a surface level, but maybe beginning to build those same wrong biases into my kid that I've had to try to rewire in my own brain - about who we cheer for, and what assumptions we make about who is doing good and harm. Really, I don't think any of these games are doing harm to my kid right now, but I want to start aiming for the right stories now rather than later.

So I try to mix it up - after defeating a monster, he became a wise monster that sent us on the quest to defeat a lion statue on the nearby seminary campus. Then after defeating the lion, the lion turned out to just be cranky because he had a thorn in his paw.

Anyway, I wonder the same thing about game design. I've gotten a lot of insight from folks I respect who have challenged me to look at how imperialism, to mention a prominent example, infiltrates so much of board games. So often, we are doing the work of imperialism, from the perspective of the conquerers, when we play board games. Would we not benefit from looking at things from a different angle?

One of Plaid Hat's earliest games did that - City of Remnants by Isaac Vega. Thematically, you're not the conquerers, but the conquered, refugees living on a refugee planet with no hope of overthrowing. It's a bit dark, but you're just doing crime to get the glory you can get. Maybe that's one reason (among others) that the remake, Neon Gods, didn't do great for us - the game is supposed to be drab and sad, not neon and bright.

I've often toyed with the idea of a space empire game from the perspective of a newly discovered planet - how do you interact with, trust, distrust, and explore a large empire that you've been involuntarily made a part of? Do you rise in the ranks? Do you fight for independence? I'd still love to make this game. But am I a person that do that design with insight and tact? Or is it for someone else to do? Or in a partnership?

No conclusions here, just random thoughts tonight. See you all in the beta in the next 12 hours or so.
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