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#26 – The Roll and Write Game Jam

Hey everyone. Patrick here for another bonus episode. Today, I’m going to be talking to you about something that I participated in for the last week. So, there’s actually right now a global game jam going on for roll and write games, which I found online a few days ago, probably three, four days ago. Before the jam started, I should say. And I want to participate in it, so what I thought I’d do is I thought I would record every single day of this game jam, because it goes on for seven days.

So during these seven ten days, and if you haven’t heard anything about game jam, there’s a couple people on this podcast who talked about them, but basically I’m probably going to be working either by myself or with a friend to try to make a game based on the criteria for this game jam, and you have the duration of the game jam to do it. So usually there are, you know, a couple days, or a week, or they might limit you in terms of hours spent on it. In this case, I have seven ten days to finish this game jam and submit something.

Day 1

Now, it is a roll and write game jam, and that’s basically all I know about it. They haven’t posted the full rules until this morning. So in a minute I’m going to take a look at those rules. The last thing I just wanted to say is that I already have a couple of friends interested, so we’ve been, you know I sent the link to them. I said, “Hey, does this look like something you’d be interested in?” And I got two friends who said, “Yeah, maybe.” So depending on what the rules are, I’m gonna check them out. I literally have not seen them yet. So I’m gonna pull up the website in just a minute. But I might have two friends.

I’ve kind of thought about, so the work I’ve done ahead of time is I’m thinking about an Avatar: The Last Airbender roll and write game. I’ve been thinking about non … Oh boy, what’s the word? Non-transitional? Nope. Non … Oh no, I’m forgetting the word, but like non-transitional dice? Oh man. I will come … Non-transitive dice! There we go. Non-transitive dice, which is kind of like where this die usually beats this die, a different die beats that die, and then basically dice that usually beat each other in kind of a circle.

So yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking of, special dice, and then an Avatar: The Last Airbender game, and that’s all I got. So let’s see, I’m gonna pull up the website. Here it is. The jam is live. Oh. The theme of the jam is autumn. There are also component limitations, so autumn might not work with Avatar: The Last Airbender. So I don’t know if I can do that.

Okay. So there are also component limitations. Roll and write games, who can take part, we just have to finish a week, judges. All right. Let me see the component limitations. For the specifics click here. The theme is autumn. Time of leaves and harvesting, the legacy of the autumn is … We can interpret autumn … influenced the [inaudible 00:02:54], but it must be … Okay. They so they said the theme can be loose, but it has to be in there somewhere, so it could be pumpkin spice lattes, or it could be pumpkins, or whatever.

Roll and write … Oh, components limitations. So games must use no more than:

  • One A4 letter sized sheet of player per player
  • One piece of paper as a board
  • One extra piece of paper for the rules
  • And six standard dice. That gets rid of my non-transitive dice.

Oh, one more thing it says at the bottom. This roll and write jam, [inaudible 00:03:31], the gist is to make a game from scratch over the next week. Of course, we wouldn’t know … Yeah, yeah. Cool.

Okay. So, the only ideas I had ahead of time, non-transitive dice and Avatar: The Last Airbender are probably not gonna work for this. So this is day one, I will come back in day two and let you know where I’m at with this. All right, bye bye.

Day 2

So, today is Sunday, day two of the global game jam on roll and writes. It’s 7:55AM and I basically just got up. Yesterday was, I was pretty surprised by the restraints of this contest. I was really hoping I could use special dice where I could put whatever I wanted on each die face. Or use the theme for Avatar: The Last Airbender, that was kind of all I, you know, just had rolling around in my head before the theme was announced, or the restrictions were announced.

And so, yeah, when I read that yesterday, I was really, really surprised. And just because I was basically starting with nothing. Not even like an idea of what I wanted. But, yesterday I spent, well, all of yesterday spit balling ideas with two friends while we were out hiking, which is what you do in Colorado. And then there happens to be a local gaming convention where I went to with one of those friends. So we went to this local gaming convention, we played four different games. You know, like a lighter game, you know, like an hour long game, like a two and a half hour long game, and a really short 15 minute. So it was really good, because we got all these different ideas, inspirations from different types of games while we were there.

Coming Up With Themes

And we kind of came up with like four different ideas for this contest. So let me share them with you.

Theme 1 – Corn Maze

So one of the coolest ideas that I don’t think we’re going to pursue, but it’s really fun sounding is like getting lost in a corn maze, and maybe there’s someone chasing yo you, or you’re trying to escape, or maybe it’s the first person to escape the corn maze wins. I really want to explore the space of drawing lines and figuring a way out of this maze. Or maybe it’s more like Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, or whatever that’s called, where you’re trying to be on the same space as someone. But I just couldn’t figure out how to do that with D6s, unless I said ones move up, twos move right, threes move down, which I didn’t really want to do. So I’ve been thinking about that, but it’s a cool idea. But it’s hard to do with regular D6s.

Theme 2 – Thanksgiving Dinner

I also like the idea of coming up with the best Thanksgiving dinner as a game. So maybe there’s like a giant turkey, and if you give the turkey and you’re the first person, it’s like 20 points. And if you get turkey and ham, there’s a bonus there. Maybe there’s like all sorts of different food groups and set collection. I like the idea of that.

Theme 3 – Ultimate Halloween Route

So going, again, back to Halloween, I really liked kids planning the ultimate Halloween route, which I think, and I kind of thought of it as I was looking at, what’s the game? “Welcome to…” where there’s all these houses on the neighborhood, and you can like, “Cool. I’m walking by this one and it has apples. Gross. Negative one point.” Sorry, or maybe you don’t walk around that, you try to avoid it. And then there’s this one has peanut butter cups, yes, that’s two points. And if you get two peanut butter cups in a house in a row that’s five points. Whatever. But again, the route build. I love the idea of route building, I’m just not sure how to do that with regular D6s. And I could just maybe build a regular neighborhood and it’s more about the, you know, the snickers, and the butterfingers, and the peanut butter cups instead of planning the route. But that one’s kind of sitting on the back burner for now.

Theme 4 – Making Potions

The last idea, the one that we’re most excited about right now because we think we can actually achieve it is what we’re calling Witches Brew, which is where you make potions. So there’s, I think, 15 potions right now, and some of them require a couple ingredients, some of them require a lot of ingredients. And then ingredients sort of stay in between rounds.

So, let’s say I roll a red two. So, I think you get three dice. So red, blue, and yellow is what we’re going with for right now. And you’re using ingredients for potions. So, let’s say a love potion requires for red, and I on the red die roll a two, I can cross of two of the check marks on the love potion check list I guess. So you can kind of build up towards it. “Oh, if I rolled a red four, I could get all of them in one go, which would be awesome.”

You can waste ingredients, which loses you points. So if I rolled a five, I could complete the love potion, but I’d also have to mark off wasted one item, which is minus one point. So I’d get a bunch of points for finishing the love potion, and you get more points for finish something first. So it might be worth it, even if you, you know, roll a red five. It might be worth minus one point just to finish it first.

First Playtest

But yeah, that’s kind of what we’re most excited about. Different colors with different spaces of the board. And there’s something, we’re still figuring this out, because we did get a play test in yesterday. Yeah, Dave and I came up with this yesterday, we got in a play test, and for a first play test it wasn’t bad. It didn’t explode, and there are fun choices. And I think for a first play test, that’s amazing. There’s a ton of room for improvement, but I’m just happy it didn’t explode. That was the thing I was most worried about.

So hopefully, today we’ll get more work done on that game and have some more fun playing games at this convention, and yeah. I hope to have an update for you tomorrow on, I don’t know, just the cool stuff we’re doing. And hopefully we’ve made some progress on one of those ideas, hopefully Witches Brew. But that’s what I got, and I’ll talk to you more tomorrow.

Day 3

Hey everyone, it is Monday. That is Labor Day here in the US, and that means it’s day three of the game jam. So, yesterday was really productive. I went to B-Con, that’s a local convention, and I played Potion Explosion just for sort of inspiration. Don’t know if I got any cool ideas, but it was just fun to pull out marbles and make potions explode.

We played a couple different games, and then David and I had a playtest of Witches Brew. So the play test was with my friend Heather and her husband. And Heather gives really detailed feedback. Overall, the game was definitely better on the second day than in the first day. I think one of the big things was we added some rules to make it easier to, basically when you finish one potion, you used to have to like throw away any extra ingredients, any extra value on your die basically. But we sort of said, “Hey, when it’s the last thing you’re filling up on your potion, you can immediately start a second potion.” And that little rule really sped the game up, so I really liked that.

We did all have pretty similar scores by the end, and there are a couple of different strategies. So, David went for getting as many dice as possible, which isn’t worth a lot of points, but if the game had lasted one more turn he probably would’ve maybe got close to first. And if it lasted two more turns, he might have won, just because he was rolling six dice every turn and then the rest of us were rolling three or four.

So, and yeah, my strategy is I got one extra die, and I was focusing on the points. And I saw David was crushing it, so I basically finished the game as soon as possible, even if it meant less points for me just because I knew he would take it away and win with that. So, I’m really happy that there’s different strategies it seems like. I’d like to see more strategies, but for right now, there’s multiple strategies, which is good.

The biggest piece of feedback which we got. Sorry, I should say the piece of feedback that resonated the most with me, the thing that I think we need to fix the most is that the magical potions don’t feel magical enough. Which I agree with. They kind of, for the most part, when you finish this potion, it’s like, “Check off one free red box on a different potion.”

That’s just so boring. And it’s small, right? It’s not like one box is not usually meaningful. So a little bit last night, I redid the sheets graphically so there’s kind of spaces to fill out your points and all this stuff. And then just this morning, right before recording this, I redid the rewards section of the potions. So some of them have really cool one time effects to make them feel more magical.

David’s gonna try to get a play test in today, and hopefully, I think … I sent him an email, hopefully he can print out the new sheets that I just finished. And then hopefully he’ll have more feedback to make more changes tonight. So we’re moving right along. And then, I’m hoping later this week, I have, you know, some dinner plans with friends that like board games, so I’m hoping we’ll get in a quick play test, a few more play tests later this week.

And then just the last thing I just want to share is that Heather also brought up an interesting point of like, “Yeah, Patrick, witches making potions. Got it. But why are the witches making potions?” And that’s totally something we can explain in like a one page rules document, right? Is like are they selling them? Are they drinking them themselves? Is it a competition? So, I don’t know what the answer is there, but I do need to start thinking about that. And since the requirements for the game is to fit on one rules document, I think today I’ll just … Right now it’s al on Evernote, I think I’ll transition everything to like a Google Doc so that way I can start filling it in, and know how much space I have, and work on the theme and all that stuff.

So that’s where I’m at with day three, and I’ll check in tomorrow.

Day 4

It is day four of the Roll and Write Global Game Jam. It’s 10:40AM. I had some work to do first thing this morning like paying myself, apparently that’s important to do when you work for yourself. So remember to do that. And then, after I got done all the like absolutely essential things, I did spend a little bit of time tweaking my game based on some feedback I got yesterday.

So yesterday, there were two play tests, but I wasn’t present for either one of the, so, one of them was by my friend David, and he ran it with his family. And I think he kind of like, there was like a hybrid approach where he took some old stuff and some new stuff and kind of merged it together, so he didn’t see good results, but part of that may have been just kind of how he was gathering the rules at the last second type thing.

The other one was done by Keith, I’m gonna mess up his last name. Is it Pigot? Pigott? Sorry. It’s P-I-G-G-O-T-T, who is one of the other contestant. So I saw his came called A Walk in the Woods on Twitter. And it’s looks fantastic. He was able to figure out a really cool path mechanic where you’re walking around the wood, and it kind of looks a little bit like a crossword puzzle, and you can kind of draw your line through the woods based on what numbers you roll. And then there’s like on certain spaces, there’s like leaves, or deer, or other things. And the more of those, like there’s like set collection. So like deer are worth a lot, but there’s not many on the board. And whoever has the most of these gets points, or the least of these gets points. That type of thing.

So, I saw his game on Twitter, and I reached out. And this is one of those things where you just have to be assertive and be like, “Hey, I want to have my game play tested. I’d be happy to play test yours. Does that work for you?” And he reciprocated right away, and he actually sent me feedback before I sent him mine. So that was super helpful.

So let me talk about his play test first. So, he gave me some pretty good feedback. Overall, it sounded like the game was in a good spot, or at least not a terrible spot. There were a few areas of the rules which were confusing, so I can hopefully clean those up just to make them a little bit more clear.

And then he made a completely new suggestions, and while I’m not sure it’s the right call, it is absolutely worth testing. And that’s kind of what I love about getting feedback from outside of your usual circles. So just to explain it a little bit, my game has a bunch of check boxes, and I don’t know if you can hear my computer beeping. My game has a bunch of check boxes.

Now, one potion might have eight red check boxes and four yellow check boxes, so if I roll a four on the red and the yellow die, I can cross off all four of the yellow pips and half of the red pips, or boxes. On a future turn, I can try to finish that potion. Keith suggested that I change that to a simpler system where one potion might require two red dice with a three or higher, or one potion might require a red, a yellow, and a blue, and they all have to have the same value.

I’m not really sure if his suggestion is going to pay off, but I think the whole point of a jam is to try new things like this. So I modified my player mats, and I’m going to give it a go probably tomorrow. I have some friends coming over tomorrow for dinner. So hopefully after dinner I’ll get a play test in.

Again, let me go back to David’s play test super quick. It sucks not being in the room. He gave me some feedback, but because I wasn’t in the room, it’s really hard for me to like understand the feedback, does that make sense? Like he might’ve said, ‘This thing was hard to understand.” But if I’m not there, I don’t understand exactly what was hard about that rule or something like that.

I mean, at least they didn’t hate the game. But yeah, you definitely want to be in the room for these play tests. It’s helpful, sometimes it’s helpful like in Keith’s example, he gave me a really cool idea, and I kind of got that one, but sometimes you just have to be in the room to get it.

So yeah. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow before the play test, maybe I’ll work on some of the graphics or the rule book, but that’s all for me today. All right. Bye bye. Talk tomorrow, I guess.

Day 5

It is day five of the Global Game Jam, and it is 9PM, or a little bit after. My friends just headed out after dinner and after a little play test. I was a bit skeptical of the suggestion that Keith made which I mentioned yesterday. I kind of thought there’d maybe be this time where you can’t really use the dice. Like with my original system, you can kind of always cross of check boxes, you’re always making progress, even if you consistently roll ones, you’re at least crossing off one check box. That was my sort of rationale why I thought it might be better.

But after the play test tonight, I can say that I think I like the new system better. It feels more puzzle-y, where you’re like, “All right. So these three boxes have to equal each other, so I’m gonna use the four here even though I wasn’t planning on using it, but it matches the other two fours.” Or you know. “These three numbers have to be in numerical order, so I’m gonna put the one here. And this one’s already there, so I’m gonna put a two here.” It just felt like you’re kind of going all over the map, which is kind of fun.

And then one of the things that I didn’t think about was with this new system, it actually integrates really well with my original reward system. So my original reward system is when you finish a potion, you can kind of check off one or two check boxes for free. Which in the original system, didn’t feel like much, just crossing off two extra check boxes out of eight. It just didn’t feel like much for whatever reason.

But in this new system, potions only have two or three boxes that you have to check off, so when you can check off one for free that is a huge accelerator. So there were times where completing one potion would help you complete two other potions, and that feels really fun to have these like chain reactions. And now, I’m honestly a bit torn on what I should do now.

Should I move forward with this new system, or should I keep my original system? And unfortunately, one play test isn’t enough. I cannot possibly know after one play test. I really enjoyed this play test, but it’s just hard to know. And it’s hard for me to find a new group of people to play test with every night, or even the same group of people. Because they have lives, they have other things to do.

So, you know with a limited amount of friends that haven’t played this game yet, I’m debating what I should do. I think I will try to maybe try to get in one more play test tomorrow, I don’t even know with who yet. But try to get in one more play test tomorrow. And then maybe kind of lock it down from there, and maybe the future play tests should only like refine what I have. I’ll probably get in one or two more play tests by the end of the jam, so maybe three more total.

But I think because I’m slowly running out of time and you know, I can’t do games every single day this week. I have other commitments. I think I’m gonna have to start locking it down and just start making tweaks. And there’s definitely some balance issues that I still have to figure out where some potions are not worth their points, and visa versa.

But yeah. I guess I’m hoping that maybe by tomorrow I can get in one more play test, and then start locking things down. That’s me. Talk tomorrow.

Day 7

Hey everyone. It is day seven of the game jam, which is Friday. And it is three in the afternoon. So an update, I sent my game to my designer, and it came back with something pretty amazing. I honestly love it. I’ve been using this really ugly spreadsheet for most of this week because it’s really fast to edit, and they came back with something that has like these really nice boxes, and you know, transparencies, and fancy fonts, and just all this stuff.

So I’m super excited about that. I’m constantly amazed what happens when you apply graphic design skills to a website, or a game, or anything really where the graphic design can always highlight what’s important, and then kind of hide what’s not important, right?

Anyways, so I have no idea how my game’s gonna do in this jam, but if I do get any credit for anything, it might be because of the graphic design. I’m actually really, really happy with it. There are maybe eight to ten minor things in the design that I want changed. Unfortunately because it’s Friday, I don’t know if my designer has time to finish these before Sunday. I suppose that is one of the downsides of having a final submission on a Sunday. If you work with a professional, then they can’t help you on those last couple of days.

So let’s see. I have a date tonight. Yay! But that also means I’m not sure if I’ll get a play test in. I’m guessing no, but you never know. There is a play test meetup tomorrow, Saturday. I’ll be bringing my game with me, and since I definitely know I can’t make any changes Saturday before the due date on Sunday.

I was kind of a little stumped on like, “Cool, I can play test it!” But if I find anything wrong, I just have to like be sad about it. And then I was thinking that I could actually do a blind play test and focus mostly on the rules page. So hopefully, I’m gonna, you know, I’m gonna bring everything with me, and there’s usually enough people where I can get a play test in. And I’m hoping to just bring the rules page with me and just watch them and see how they go through it.

And even if they do find a couple, well hopefully, small issues in the main game itself, I’m hoping that the rules is the thing that like I know I can mag significant progress on the rules, because right now it’s just sort of a blank page right now. So, yeah.

That’s kind of where I’m at. Oh, one small thing. My printer right now is only printing black and white, so my beautifully designed roll and write needs me to add color manually. So I’m probably going to go to the store later tonight and pick up some just like highlighters of different colors just to add a bit of color where it matters. Because like the red die can only go here, the blue die can only go here, that type of thing.

So, that’s a fun problem to have. It’s only printing black right now, so I need to add all the color manually. But that’s where I’m at. Two more days, and then I think this jam will be done.

All right, bye bye.

Day 10

Hello everyone. It is day 10 of the game jam. Now as I mentioned earlier, what I wanted to do this past Saturday, it’s Sunday right now, is I wanted to blind test the game. And there was a meetup, and it just happened there were tons of new people, so I actually got a ton of great feedback, I got two pages of notes on all the things that they got wrong with my game.

There were one or two tiny things that I can adjust on the player sheet, but primarily it was the rules page itself. Now, one of the things I realized is that I’ve only verbally explained the game. Basically no one but me has read the rule book. Does that make sense? That means that there are rules in the game that were never written down. I thought I wrote them down, but I never did.

And that became quite apparent in the play test. It was really fun and challenging and horrifying to watch them make assumptions, and some of them they got right, and some of them they got wrong. And I just let them finish, you know continue playing that way. And basically I’d listen to their arguments of, “Well I think we have to play the rule this way because of this.”

Honestly, I think because of this blind play test, my rules are five times better. Like there’s so much. I reduced a lot of those potential mistakes that might’ve happened. So if you are working on a game jam, spend the last day just working on the rules. It will really clear things up.

I did double check. I double checked, triple checked, quadruple checked everything this morning, and then I submitted it just a few minutes ago. So now I just have to sit back and see what happens.

Jams vs Contests

So just overall thoughts on this game jam. I have to say I really enjoyed this process. I feel like I got more done in a 10 day game jam than in a three month game design contest. It’s kind of like studying for finals at college, you just go into this zone where you’re just studying, studying, studying and you can produce excellent results. And I think I’d rather go into focus mode a couple times a year than constantly tweak things and never make significant progress.

So I’m looking forward to more game jams. I’m most likely going to post my work during this game jam. Oh, sorry. I misread my notes here. I’m basically, probably gonna post what I have right now as this. So everything I’ve recorded so far as its own episode. And then, if possible, I’m going to see if I can get the creators of the contest on the show and hear about it from their end. And maybe we’ll do that like when the contest ends, just because I think it’d be fun to hear about … because I think they got … Well I’m hoping they get a ton of submissions, but I’m guessing they’re going to get 20, 30, 40, maybe more. So it’ll be cool to see how many submissions they get.

Update on Fry Thief

And then, just a little bit of other news for me. I’ve done some significant graphic design for my game Fry Thief. I have a page on my website dedicated to the progress on Fry Thief. You can see some of the illustrator’s work, and the tweaking of the cards, and all that stuff. I am starting a newsletter which will have maybe a once a month update on the game. So if you want to subscribe to that, you can find it on my site indieboardgamedesigners.com.

You can follow me Twitter, I’m @BFTrick. That’s B as in board game, F as in Fun, and Trick as in trick taking game. Thank you so much for listening to this. I don’t know if you enjoy this format of like listen to me go through a game jam, kind of my process. Let me know, because then I can do more of these. I really enjoyed it. But if it’s super boring to the listeners, then you know, I probably won’t do it again.

So that’s all for me. Good luck to all the contestants out there in this game jam and other game jams. Have fun making board games. Bye bye.

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