Plaid Hat Tech and Games

Updates and musings about what I'm working on at Plaid Hat Games.
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Post-PAXU Blog Bonanza

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! It's been a few weeks and there's lots to talk about, so this post is extra long!

I'll talk about all the work I've been putting into the Familiar Tales app, where my gaming life is at post-PAXU, next steps for Summoner Wars Online, and some gaming trends that are motivating me.

Back from PAX Unplugged

5 of us in the Plaid Hat crew had a blast at PAX Unplugged. Considering how much I still have to wake up with my 4-year-old son, getting several full nights' sleep had me energized, even as our days were busy and draining. We demoed and sold a whole bunch of Ashes and Summoner Wars, and did a ton of press and media demos for Familiar Tales. It was a huge success and the buzz for Familiar Tales is especially through the roof.

Having the full mask and vaccine requirement had me feeling great about the con. There's nothing we can do for 100% safety, but that's not what I need - what I need is to be somewhere where everyone is doing their part to keep us all safe.

Some non-Plaid games I'm excited about coming out of the con:

* Kabuto Sumo: Probably my favorite game I played at the con, it's light silly fun with just enough going on. I wouldn't change a thing.

* Lost Ruins of Arnak: Heard about this a lot last year and resisted its call, but another staff member got it handed to them suddenly at the end of the con. I have read the rules and am excited to play. Both the deckbuilding AND the worker placement seem a little lighter than in Dune Imperium - instead it feels like the meat of the game is in resource management.

* Ethnos: An oldie that I've never got around to buying, so I picked it up at the con, I think everyone I game with will like it a lot.

* Slay the Spire: Was with our developer Nick, so of course I had to get a Slay the Spire tutoring session. He helped me attain a couple new levels with the Ironclad. It's strange how much fun it can be to play this video game WITH someone else.

* Nicaea: This wasn't at the con, but it arrived in the mail while I was gone. If only it'd arrived sooner I'd have several plays in already! As it stands, I've read the rules and even wrote out a rules summary to help me get a handle on everything in the game. It's not a complex game but the ramifications of each action are hard to parse out at first. I think and hope that I'll be in love with it after I finally play it. It's my first game from Hollandspiele.

Familiar Tales App

The last few weeks have been 100% Familiar Tales app work as we near the launch of the game. The app is now public at in beta. Some of the coolest stuff and the biggest challenges I've been working on:

* We integrated a full tutorial into the app. I am so excited and I feel you can learn the game just from the app without the rulebook if you want. The only issue is that you're not told to go to the app until the end of setup in the rulebook, so some might miss this opportunity for that reason. It is very video game like. We have just enough information in the app - whose turn it is, the danger level, and what each character starts the campaign with - that we can ask players what they want to do thematically and hold their hand along the path for the first page. Try it out when you get the game!

* Music continues to be super cool but also the riskiest part of the app to rely on, since it changes dynamically with the player turn and danger level. I THINK I've got the fully loaded music system working, but some devices don't have enough memory for that, so I also have a streaming option, and sometimes the music just turns off. Still figuring that out. Hopefully reviewers are understanding!

* There is also a rulebook glossary in the app. And best of all, when you're just reading entries or the tutorial, if you come across a glossary term, it's automatically linked to open up the glossary if you want some quick information!

Overall, the basic functionality of how the Familiar Tales app affects gameplay didn't change much from Forgotten Waters - it's minimalistic and aimed at enhancing immersion rather than taking players out of their game. So it's these ancillary functions that are the big leap forward.

Summoner Wars Upcoming

My Summoner Wars work has sat dormant while we finish up the Familiar Tales app, but that will change very soon! Here's what I can't WAIT to get pounding away on every day in the new year:

* Other languages: A lot of the work here is already gone, will be great to officially launch in other languages.

* Animations: I have big plans for improving game animations and making everything smoother and clearer.

* Online speed: I have some solid ideas for how to make moves faster.

* Balance: Still discussing this stuff. Right now I'm considering pushing for a small set of errata to temporarily try out (Ice Ram nerf, Mass Heal buff, etc) temporarily in the app, without any promise of it becoming permanent errata, as an experiment. The other option is the matchup table I proposed in the last post.

* Single player - this is still the main thing we want to get done before launching on Steam and then making our BIG push for the app. Right now, although it's not in beta, we're treating it more like that from a marketing perspective. We feel that when we have the Summoner Saga mode and Challenge mode in, that will be the best entry point for a huge number of new players to potentially hook in.

Game Trends and Ideas

On the drive to Philly for PAXU, Colby and I had a lot of time to shoot the breeze and toss around ideas. I started talking about how gaming is trending in my demographic (30s, busier than ever due to work and/or young kids). Most all of us are gaming way less than we want.

Digital games can cover the 2-player fix, and the puzzly euro fix, but the digital offerings do not really cover one of my favorite genres - the big multiplayer territory control, political maneuvering (whether explicit or emergent), units on a map games. This is my favorite way to interact with my game groups, and there is not really digital version of this unless you want to get into a complex video game like Civ 6 (which isn't on Mac anyway).

We had some initial discussions of what we could do in the digital space to rectify this, and I'm super excited. Keep an eye out, if we have some play testing opportunities, I'll definitely post about them here.
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