Plaid Hat Tech and Games

Updates and musings about what I'm working on at Plaid Hat Games.
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Playtesting for Fun and Profit

Joseph Arthur Ellis
United States
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Microbadge: Summoner Wars fanMicrobadge: Defcon StatusMicrobadge: RaxxonMicrobadge: Ra fanMicrobadge: Star Wars: Rebellion fan
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.


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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